You engineers are a fascinating bunch. Truly, the work you do is exciting. Whenever I receive a first-draft statement of purpose for electrical engineering, I look forward to learning about quantum computing, solar cells, or wild biomedical sensors that could change humanity forever. It’s electrifying stuff! (Pun intended.)
Surely it’s the exciting nature of EE that makes the field so ferociously competitive. With admission rates under 10% at MIT, and nearly 3,000 applications annually, you can be certain you’re competing with the best young engineers in the world.
But what do the best young engineers in the world look like?
And what kind of SOPs do they write?
Surprisingly, they’re not always 4.0 rock stars with stacks of publications. Sometimes, they have average GPAs and zero publications…but they do submit SOPs so intelligent, and so beautifully written, that schools fight to admit them.
That was exactly the case with Lee, one of my all-time favorite students. A thoughtful and whip-smart applicant from Korea, Lee defied his modest credentials to earn 6 master’s admissions, including from his #1 choice. He’s also graciously shared his SOP so YOU can see what it takes to dominate with your statement of purpose for electrical engineering.
With a 3.29 GPA, and none of the typical publications or research credentials often seen in top applicants, Lee applied to 8 master’s programs in electrical engineering. He was admitted to 6 (including his top choice), and was waitlisted at the other 2.
8 applications. 0 rejections.
How did Lee achieve this nutty success? Let’s let him explain in his own words:
“Of course, bad essays can make top applicants fail. But some students, like myself, can only rely on STELLAR essays for their dream schools.
Given my GPA of 3.29 (major GPA was still only about 3.4), and lack of academic publications or strong credentials, I think it’s pretty safe to say my essays were objectively stellar (haha!).
No one can deny I’ve gotten results WAY over my stats, and I can’t get this thought out of my head: so many numerical underdogs waste their opportunities, when instead they could bring out juicy strengths that their stats don’t represent. This might be shocking, especially to Asian applicants, given our schools only care about numbers and accredited accomplishments. But not American schools, for sure. This belief in human potential and second chances is what makes America the country it is, I guess.
I hope applicants who have to cover a weak profile with good essays (just like I had to) can get a lot of help from my example.”
What’s So Great About This SOP?
- A Perfect Reason for Applying
In the free Structure is Magic SOP guide, we learn that all great statements of purpose introduce an intellectual conflict – one that grad school will help you learn to solve. For Lee, it’s clear: the semiconductor industry is changing, and he wants to capitalize on it.
“…while I enjoy my work, the imminent saturation of this conventional field, with its makeshift process solutions, barely sustains profitability. Meanwhile, quantum computing is booming.”
To level-up as a quantum-integration engineer, Lee needs a new theoretical education and the chance to put it into practice through research. Only certain grad schools can give him this opportunity.
- Excellent Sentence of Purpose
All great SOPs include a “Sentence of Purpose” — a thesis statement that declares the applicant’s unique career and intellectual goals. Lee wrote his with zero frills or fancy language:
“This motivates me to apply to the ECE MS degree program, with a thesis option in Electronics and Photonics, to start my career as a quantum integration engineer.”
By concentrating in Electronics and Photonics, Lee will launch his new (and very specific) career.
- A Step-by-Step Study Plan
In paragraphs 2 and 3 (the “Why This Program” section), Lee tells the reader exactly what he’s going to do if admitted. He explains exactly which classes he’ll take, and why. He explains how this will prepare him for a very specific kind of thesis project, and exactly which professors will be the best mentors. Then, he ends the section by repeating how this plan will guide him toward his goal (rephrased from his Sentence of Purpose):
“The expert mentorship, curriculum, and hands-on research opportunities available within this program will help me become skilled in integrating multiple quantum components into a monolithic system of high stability and optimized functionality.”
- Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths
Though Lee claims he doesn’t have strong academic credentials, it doesn’t mean he’s any less intellectually capable than other applicants. He proves this in paragraphs 4 and 5 by elaborating on the skills, knowledge, and rewards he’s obtained in both his academic and professional engineering careers.
His undergrad paper on neuromorphic 2D transistors wasn’t published? Big deal! It clearly taught him how to analyze others’ research, and he talks about the big issues with true intellectual authority. He hasn’t worked in an academic lab? Who cares! He’s spent years using tools such as Spotfire, modeling Local Layout Effects, designing experiments, and contributing to his company’s process-design kit. Few applicants have Lee’s experience and insight (especially undergrads), and he proves it.
Also, in Paragraph 6, Lee very smartly emphasizes his ability to work with interdisciplinary teams: “I have countless experiences leading discussions between professionals of diverse fields, and my proactive attitude often helps produce fruitful agreements. I believe these experiences will help my graduate work on quantum integration tremendously, as integrating various quantum devices, each developed by separate researchers across academics and industries, will demand large-scale collaboration and communication skills.”
Thus, Lee shows that he knows how new engineering technologies are developed – through collaboration – and proves that he will be a valuable addition to any team.
Now, let’s read Lee’s sample essay and see how he put it all together.
A Brilliant Statement of Purpose for Electrical Engineering
Though I started my engineering career in CMOS hardware at the Samsung Semiconductor R&D Center in Seoul, Korea, I have come to see immense potential in quantum electronics and photonics. Currently, I model Local Layout Effects for 3nm node products, and while I enjoy my work, the imminent saturation of this conventional field, with its makeshift process solutions, barely sustains profitability. Meanwhile, quantum computing is booming. In the next two decades, quantum hardware will evolve into error-corrected computers, composed of logical gates with tens of thousands of qubits, making quantum supremacy a reality. As an engineer, I want to be part of this movement, and I believe the best place is among the prolific research groups of Gotham University. Professor Lucius Fox’s paper, “Milestones For Integrated Quantum Photonics” helped shape my perception of this field, clearly indicating that Gotham is a leading node for quantum integration. This motivates me to apply to the ECE MS degree program, with a thesis option in Electronics & Photonics, to start my career as a quantum integration engineer.
In this program, I aim to obtain a theoretical background in quantum physics, along with research skills which will drive my contributions toward the design and integration of cutting-edge monolithic quantum processors. Physics and materials science courses, such as “Engineering Quantum Mechanics” and “The Quantum Description of Electronic Materials,” will develop my capacity to set up rigorous physical models for quantum phenomena. Then, electives in nanophotonics will prepare me for work on monolithic quantum systems, while I simultaneously obtain simulation and calibration skills in courses like “Matrix Analysis and Numerical Simulation.”
Building this cross-section of knowledge will culminate in my thesis research on quantum devices, hopefully under the supervision of Professor Fox or Professor Victor Fries. Specifically, I want to work on data-centric modeling and simulation of mutual quantum effects between devices when integrated into a monolithic system. With deep-learning analytics, I hope to develop an elaborative simulation deck for quantum integration. The expert mentorship, curriculum, and hands-on research opportunities available in this program will help me become skilled in integrating multiple quantum components into a monolithic system of high stability and optimized functionality.
I believe I am very well prepared for this program, with work experience in the CMOS integration industry alongside rigorous academic studies. As an undergraduate at Korea University, I read textbooks like Principles of Electronic Materials and Devices by S.O. Kasap and Principles of Semiconductor Devices by Sima Dimitrijev from cover to cover. This helped me understand how the most fundamental characteristics of a solid (such as density of state and fermi-level) are defined and calculated, and how they combine into other electrical characteristics (such as intrinsic carrier density or energy band). With my interests in semiconductors, I channeled this fascination into a review paper on neuromorphic 2D transistors with MoS2 and WSe2 as p-type and n-type channel materials, analyzing the work of ANSDL, a research group within my university. By writing the paper, I gained a deeper understanding of electron transport between the heterogeneous structure of each type of energy band alignment, earning second place in my department’s academic fair.
After graduation, I became a proficient CMOS engineer modeling Local Layout Effects. Proactive self-education helped me acquire necessary techniques whenever I needed to get my job done, and I am very confident of doing the same in graduate research. To prove my models today, I design my own experiment layouts, perform data analytics to draw out supporting evidence, then build visualizations for presentation through tools such as Spotfire. My Local Layout Effect models are reflected in the company’s 3GAE/3GAP process design kit, which is released to industry customers. In addition, my hardware solutions optimize the overall characteristics of Samsung’s 3GAE/3GAP product by eliminating the sources of negative Local Layout Effects while utilizing ones with positive effects. As I always try to have multifaceted second thoughts on even negative aspects. Two of these solutions, one preempting a defect and one utilizing it, have been selected for patent application. I am now very skilled at integrating multiple CMOS devices in limited areal capacity with optimized chip performance, and believe I am ready to expand my work to integrate quantum devices into a dense monolithic quantum system, achieving optimized stability and functionality.
At Samsung, I collaborate with diverse groups from circuit designers to semiconductor process engineers while communicating with a wide spectrum of experts. My role as a modeling engineer positions me as a key player in the development of a reliable yet marketable model, prompting me to work as a mediator when different team members conflict over approach. I have countless experiences leading discussions between professionals of diverse fields, and my proactive attitude often helps produce fruitful agreements. I believe these experiences will help my graduate work on quantum integration tremendously, as integrating various quantum devices, each developed by separate researchers across academics and industries, will demand large-scale collaboration and communication skills.
Ultimately, my most essential reason for applying is that I truly enjoy being an engineer; I feel alive when persuading others with theories and data analytics. When my ideas are finally reflected in a project, I find purpose in making the world a better place, however minute that difference may be. I try to live by Dr. Theodore Von Karman’s quote: “Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was.” I cannot find a place better than Gotham to develop as an engineer within the novel field of quantum engineering, and look forward to contributing to a paradigm shift even greater than that of the CMOS revolution of the last decades.
Just as Lee said, a bad essay can make top applicants fail, but a stellar essay can absolutely bring your dream school within reach. If you’re preparing your statement of purpose for electrical engineering, and feel like you’re a “numerical underdog,” then use the same strategies Lee did to bring out the “juicy strengths” your stats don’t represent:
- Don’t free write. Use a logical structure. Structure is Magic or the SOP Starter Kit (for master’s or PhDs) will help you organize your thoughts in the most persuasive, sophisticated way.
- Clearly define why you NEED a graduate degree. There are very specific engineering problems you hope to solve in your career. Explain them. Then, sum them up in a Sentence of Purpose.
- Map out your Study Plan. Tell your dream school exactly what you’re going to do, step-by-step, after they admit you. Not sure how to do so? This exercise makes it easy!
- Turn your weaknesses into strengths. Most applicants obsess over numerical stats. They introduce themselves by stating their GPA, GRE, and number of publications. But these abstract metrics don’t tell the real story of your accomplishments, nor your intelligence. Take the time to explain the unique skills you’ve acquired, the problems you’ve solved, the teams you’ve worked in, and most importantly, how these experiences have prepared you to contribute to a dynamic graduate program.
(Hot Tip: engineering, more than any other field, values professional experience. Engineers are practical problem solvers, and emphasizing your successes in the workplace can go a long way toward making an otherwise average application shine.)
Follow this advice, and I’m sure you’ll give yourself the best possible chances of admission, just as Lee did. I hope his example inspires you, and proves that even “average students” can shine in the applicant pool.
Still unsure how to organize your statement of purpose for electrical engineering? I can help!
How will you prove that you’re an engineer who deserves a chance to shine?