HOW TO CREATE A STRONG STUDY PLAN

Written by: Mc Guzman

Canada Visa officers weigh all the factors such as travel history, financial status, employment history, educational background home ties and most importantly the purpose of visit. The purpose of study or SOP is an important element in getting your study permit in Canada. This is like a “LOVE” letter to your Visa officer (VO) who will be checking your application. This is where you justify all the red flags that could possibly affect your application. In this letter, you can communicate indirectly with the VO. Do you know that creating an SOP is not as easy as you think? You have to be creative, unique and even dramatic just to get the sweetest “yes” from the Visa officer. It is true that many applicants fail to submit a strong SOP due to a lack of information. My case was a bit difficult, I worked overseas and my studies and work experience were different. I had a lot of red flags that could lead to a visa rejection. I have read in a lot of forums and CAIPS notes during my study permit application and now I am sharing it with you! As a result of my perseverance, I have come up with the guidelines on how to create a strong study plan (SOP):

1. Introduction

Do not begin with the usual “Hi I am XXX, graduate of XXX”, instead start your SOP like storytelling.  What made you decide to study business management in the Philippines for instance. What inspires you to move temporarily from another country if you are an overseas worker. Maybe you can start with an iconic person that inspires you to be that person. There are many topics that you can start with, be reminded that you have to be unique among the rest. If your program is not related to your past education or current job, then you have to come up with an inspiring story that made you decide to pursue your “calling”. You can start your letter in many ways such as storytelling or statistics. Basically, need to hook the reader's attention.

2. Working background

After the quick introduction, the next part is to discuss your work experience. If you think that your program is not related to past experiences then you do not have to mention this in your SOP. Just like what I did, I was a nurse in the Philippines and changed my career to the digital industry. I just mentioned my current job as Project Coordinator then I skipped those nursing jobs. Also, you can highlight your achievements to show your determination and growth as an employee.  To end your paragraph in work experience, mention that your current skills are not enough to reach the higher levels or compete with others. This is the part where you need to point out that you have to study again.

3. Why Canada?

This part is very important and cannot be forgotten. You need to be detailed here as you have to justify why you did not study in the Philippines where the tuition fee is affordable in contrast with Canada. First, briefly discuss the disadvantages of the education system in the Philippines, tell the VO that the program is not being offered in the Philippines or if not taken for granted. The Philippine curriculum is outdated you can mention this as well. You can also compare Canada with other colleges in ASIA in terms of duration, cost, and limited program choices. To end this topic, you can discuss the advantages of studying in Canada. This is not difficult to justify as truly Canada has a good reputation in higher education, so you will be fine on this part.

4. Why this Canadian school and program?

Why did you choose this University/Colleges in Canada? What are the factors that made you choose this school? The usual reasons are cost, class size and/or distance from the center. In my SOP, I had a quick overview of my chosen program and explained how it will improve myself professionally. I mostly just referred to the details from the school website where it mentions the information about the course program. 

5. How will you pay for your studies?

This is where you need to tell us your $$$ in your bank account or if someone will sponsor your studies. Mention your investment portfolios to point out your financial habits. In my case, I did not have a sponsor so I explained that I earned savings from my job for the last XXX years. I remember I mentioned financial responsibility in my letter where it said “Financial responsibility is easier when you are working towards a goal and I strongly believe that there is no greater financial investment in one’s future than education. ” If you have a sponsor, mentioned that the sponsor will provide accommodation, food, or travel expense. You may need to include some supporting documents such as sponsors bank statement, affidavit of support, employment certificate, and his/her payslip etc. 

6. Travel history

Good thing that I have enough travel stamps to support my travel history. However, for someone who has not traveled yet, you can mention that you believe with delay gratification as you want to travel domestically or travel those countries near the Philippines. One point here that is commonly forgotten by applicants is to mention that you are a genuine student, that you have not broken any immigration laws nor you overstayed, and no plans of breaking any immigration laws in the future. Let them know that you are very much aware that the student visa will only limit you for a certain time after which you should be back in your homeland. For this reason, you acknowledged that you are obliged to return to the Philippines since you are only entitled to a student visa allowing you to study for the given duration only.

7. Plan after study 

Here is the most important part. I believe visa officers don't base it only on your bank account nor your travel history, they want to know more about your plans after your studies. Overseas worker applicants, please DO NOT tell the VO that you have plans to go back to UAE, Saudi or whatever places. The only country that you have to mention here is your country of citizenship. You have to build up your own country, what are the opportunities that await you in the Philippines for instance. Discuss the economic outlook of your country in terms of domestic demand with international skills. You can also add-in that you will be able to fulfill your goal to start up a business in the future that it will be an outstanding player in the global market. In my SOP, I even mentioned Duterte's administration about his vision to improve the country. Be patriotic, mention that you are willing to extend your hand to help the current administration to upgrade the education system and you want to help the economy by providing quality service with unyielding passion and perseverance to your fellow countrymen. 

8. Home ties

You can quickly add this point where you can mention your properties if you have one and convince the VO that you would like to settle in the Philippines for instance where you can be with your family.  For overseas workers, you can mention that with the countless opportunities waiting ahead, working overseas will not be a necessity. For someone with a business, give them a quick overview of your business strategies after you finish your program.

9. Closing

Here is your chance to beg the VO to approve your visa. In my study plan, I left a short but strong explanation of why they need to approve my visa. You may wanna have a short quote from someone that inspires you. But here was my closing paragraph in my study plan.

“Education is a human right. And, like other human rights, it cannot be taken for granted. Across the world, there are thousands of people being denied not only a right, but opportunities: a fair chance to get a decent job, to escape poverty, to support their families, and to develop their beloved country. I know Canada aims to help young people gain access to quality education to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Canada considers education a right, and place a great deal of importance on the benefits of a quality learning experience for each individual…..”

Once you have read and understood the above content, you do not need to copy and paste from another SOP. I do believe that every applicant has a unique story and career path, I encourage everyone to create their own SOP.  Ensure to have 10 sets of eyes to review your SOP for further suggestions or grammatical polishing. If you will be able to follow this guideline then CONGRATULATIONS in advance, see you in Canada!!! 

For someone who needs help proofreading or editing their study plan, I have a mentoring program for you! See below link: Click the Mentorship program! To God be the GLORY! 

See some student feedbacks from my old blog post! :)

https://iconnectstudents.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/how-to-create-a-strong-sop-for-ofws/

Written by: Mc Guzman, International student from the Philippines. She studied at Nova Scotia Community College. She is now working towards her Permanent Residency in Canada.

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