Statement of Purpose Advice

If there is a question, answer it!!!
Schools will have different formats for asking questions so pay attention to detail. Do not be tempted to use the same answers or statement for each application.

Tell a story.
Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is bore a committee. If you distinguish yourself, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific.
Do not, for example, state that you would make a good statistician unless you can back it up. Your desire to become an engineer, psychologist, etc. should be logical – the result of specific experiences described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Remember: motivation, experience, goals.
The majority if graduate programs do not interview their applicants. The personal statement might be the only part of your application that comes to the committee in your own voice. Make sure that it tells the committee things that cannot already be found in your transcript. The three key issues are your motivation or pursuing this particular degree, the experience you have that has prepared you for the rigors of graduate work, and your long and short term goals. Do not get more too personal and don’t use more than 1/3 of your statement on personal stories. Think about the culture of the field for which you are applying, and write accordingly.

Make every word count in your favor.
Do not exceed the page or word limit (if there is one – typically it is one or two, single spaced pages), do not use smaller than 11 – point font, and do not shrink the margins. You need to be concise and as specific as possible. Do not be repetitious or make a list of work or class experience. Do not reiterate your transcript.

Use the language of the discipline to which you are applying.
When discussing your research and the areas that interest you in the graduate program to which you are applying, use the correct terminology and vocabulary. Doing so will illustrate to the reader that indeed, you know that of which you speak. Do not be afraid to raise important issues you want to tackle in graduate school.

Speak in depth about your research experiences.
Faculty are interested in finding colleagues from among the many applicants to their programs. Imagine reading 500 statements to accept 10 or 15 students. What would you want to know about the people you are selecting? If you have experience as an undergraduate working with ultra-fast laser spectrometry, and are interested in pursuing this in your graduate program, let them know! If they have such research group, you might be a great fit. If they don’t have that kind of research, why are you applying there? List research projects in order of interest to your target audience but don’t limit yourself to only those projects.

Research the programs to which you are applying.
Make contact with professors you are interested in working with. Let the reader know that you will fit into the work that is going on there. Remember that in addition to answering the question of why you will be the best student for the committee to accept, you must explain why this program is the best one for you. The fit issue works both ways. Do your homework – go online and find out exactly what kind of research is going on your prospective department. If you have established contact with a professor at a potential school and have an interest in working with them, mention their name.

Be grammatically correct.
Use spell check (or even a dictionary) and have at least three people proofread it (preferably faculty or editor types) particular flags for some faculty: its and it’s; aware. It is always a good idea to have at least three people proof your final draft.

Avoid clichés and do not include some subjects.
There are certain things that should left out if personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school are not a good idea. Do not mention potentially controversial issues (religious, political etc.).

Above all, be yourself and do not apologize.
While you should explain any gaps or inconsistencies in your transcript, do so in a positive manner rather than an apologetic one. Remember that these inconsistencies might be addressed in a separate letter. It’s a good idea to have one of the faculty briefly address this issue in their letter of recommendation if they are comfortable with it.

Important Notes: 
  • All documents are subject to verification by University of Idaho.
  • All documents received by University of Idaho become the property of University of Idaho and will not be released to anyone or any institution--not even the applicant.
  • University of Idaho evaluates credentials earned through formal academic training only. Applicants should NOT submit documentation of short-term professional development courses or other non-formal, non-academic training with their application; as such documents will not be evaluated or reflected in the University of Idaho evaluation report.
  • If applicable, applicants must submit proof of name change. (Clear, legible photocopy of marriage certificate, for example.)
  • Some academic institutions can take several weeks to provide transcripts so applicants may want to request their transcript at the earliest possible
  • An Application and an Application Fee are valid for a specific degree, major, and semester. Any change in degree, major or semester before enrollment requires a new application.
  • Graduate Admissions will not disclose to an applicant reasons for denial. Graduate Admissions will encourage the student to contact the department directly and inquire how they might improve their application for future admissions. (The Department can choose to disclose or not.)