1. Statement of Purpose
2. Letter of Intent

The difference between letter of intent and statement of purpose in education or employment is that the letter of intent is an outline, while the statement of purpose is more detailed and requires substantial research.

Statement of Purpose

When you are applying to a university, a Statement of Purpose, or SOP, is a way to create a connection between your history and future plans. Creating the statement requires significant research about the specifics of both the degree program and university you have interest in applying to. Building a link between the past and present requires you to:

  • Review your past and present experiences.
  • List instances that match the direction of the degree program.
  • Show how these experiences will positively impact your future success in the degree program.

In some degree programs like MBA or Master's, this level of research is not necessary, as the area of interest in a particular field is already known. If a particular of interest is already known, it can be added to the statement of purpose as long as it is realistic in nature.

When writing the statement, follow these steps:

  • Complete all research.
  • Write the statement of purpose like a story.
  • Include the motivation for your interest in higher education.
  • Include facts without over embellishment.
  • Keep to the word limit if one is given, or stop at 1,000 words.
  • Avoid overusing words to the point that the statement sounds like a thesaurus.
  • Never commit plagiarism.

The statement should be fluid and easy to read, and it should include statements supported by facts. As a prospective candidate, be sure to show that your intent is serious in nature. If a Statement of Purpose is for employment, the focus should be a look into possible future work.

Letter of Intent

A Letter of Intent, or LOI, is used to show an outline of an agreement or intention. In general terms, a letter of intent is a non-binding proposal to another party. When a student is applying to a college, or a particular program, the letter should list the following:

  • The applicant's intended course of study.
  • The timeframe that will be expected to complete the program.

The letter should also include the following:

  • An introduction to the applicant.
  • An outline to explain the applicant's interest in the organization.
  • A list of all relevant skills and credentials.

When writing a letter of intent for employment, think of the letter as a sales pitch to show off the applicant's skills and abilities. The letter is usually written and sent when a prospective employer has shown interest in a candidate. The prospective employer can then use the letter as a way to see if the candidate should to the interview stage. The letter is an important tool and should be a way to help the candidate stand out from the rest of the candidates who have submitted applications.

When drafting the letter, follow these important steps:

  • Address the letter to a specific person to create a connection with the reader. Do not use a general title or "To Whom It May Concern."
  • The first paragraph should be a summary that includes a personal introduction and why you are applying.
  • Mention your qualifications in a sentence or two to show why you are the right candidate for the position.
  • The conclusion should include a request for a response to the letter.

Technically speaking, the letter should include the following:

  • Follow proper business letter format.
  • Use simple fonts like Arial or Courier New.
  • Use 12 point font size. Do not use anything larger.
  • Use black ink. No other color will be seen as acceptable.
  • Use plain white paper that is 20- or 24-pound weight.
  • If possible, use a laser printer to avoid ink smudges.
  • Write the letter in a formal manner.
  • Slang, offensive remarks or trite sayings should not be used.
  • Do not include personal information, including the following:
    • Age.
    • Social Security Number.
    • Marital Status.
    • Hobbies.
    • Social activities.
  • Never lie about any credentials, education, or experiences.
  • Never use more than one page for the letter of intent.

When the letter is completed, a third party should review the letter for spelling and grammatical errors. The third party should also confirm that the letter is cohesive and shows a clear vision.

If you need help with understanding the difference between a letter of intent and statement of purpose, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.