How Long Should a Graduate School Statement of Purpose (SOP) be?

Many prospective graduate school students fret over the length of their statement of purpose (SOP). Sometimes, graduate programs do not have specific guidelines for how long an applicant’s SOP should be. Information about the SOP is commonly found on the grad program’s website, such as on the applicant information page, the FAQ, or in a downloadable file. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, you should defer to the university’s general requirements for the SOP.

Photo by Andrew Neel on

The issue, however, for many applicants is when the requirements say something like “The SOP should be 2 pages in length.” What’s missing from this information is that there is no specification on font type and size, spacing, or margins. There’s also no information on whether the paragraphs should be indented or spaced apart.

As with most essay assignments, one should use Times New Roman in 12-point font, and 1-inch margins. I would argue that if a program or the graduate school website does not specific single or double space, they accept either. I would also argue that you can choose to indent your paragraphs or leave a space in-between them depending on the visual effect it creates. Do you have really long paragraphs? Maybe spacing them apart would create more whiteness on the page and make it easier for the graduate committee to read. On the other hand, if all your paragraphs are really short, maybe keeping them together and indenting the first line creates the illusion of bulk, of more words on the page. It’s really up to you.

If you’re still really unsure, I would always encourage you to email the program administrator or whoever is in charge of answering applicant questions and find out.

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