Graduate School Application Components

Common documents you will need to prepare for graduate school application are letters of recommendation, a personal statement and/or statement of purpose, and a CV. 

Jump to Resources for Application Components

Letters of Recommendation

  • Letters of recommendation are usually required when applying for internships or graduate schools.
  • Strong letters should be written by people who know you and your capabilities well, such as professors, advisors, staff, or supervisors. Relatives are not recommended.
  • Give writers enough time (at least a few months) to write the letter.
  • Provide your letter writer with a copy of your resume or past work from their class. Knowing what you have done and what type of position you are interested in allows them to include details that will help you to achieve those goals. Also, let them know how to submit the letter.
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(link to create a copy of Google Doc)
  • Letters are typically confidential (you don't see the final version). Letter writers are typically expected to submit the letter on your behalf directly to the internship or graduate school you are applying to.
  • Once you receive your letters, send writers thank you notes!
  • Tell your writers about your subsequent success and how they helped you to attain your goal.
  • If you are not applying for programs while you are still at UCSC, you may utilize Interfolio to store your letters for use at a later time. 

Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose

Graduate and professional schools often require some sort of written statement called a "statement of purpose," "personal statement," or "letter of intent" as a part of the application. This is usually a narrative-style account of your intellectual strengths, professional interests, and background information that highlights your ambitions and qualifications for that specific program.

Ideally, the statement should feature a few anecdotes that distinguish you from other applicants and be a compelling read that convinces the admissions committee that you are right for their school.

A personal statement will typically focus on your personal experiences and motivations for applying to the program. Statement of purpose will typically focus on your academic and research experiences. Regardless of which you are asked to submit, programs will provide a prompt that addresses what specifically they are looking for in each document. Be sure to respond directly to those questions.

Commonly asked questions include

  1. What experiences, demonstrated skills and accomplishments have made you decide on and prepare you for this program?
  2. What are your immediate and long-term career goals?
  3. How will this graduate/professional school and the specific program assist you in reaching your goals? 
Use the following worksheet to help you brainstorm ideas.
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(link to create a copy of Google Doc)

Allow sufficient time to write the essay and have revisions of it reviewed by many people.

Customize each essay to each program if possible. Follow the "show, don't tell" rule -- describe experiences you've had that demonstrate your abilities instead of just naming them. Don't include your entire life story, unless specifically requested to do so. Don't make your essay any longer than it absolutely needs to be.

General outline to consider if not provided with a specific prompt

  • Catchy intro with a significant story, achievement, or moment relevant to your career interest
  • Experiences, skills, and/or accomplishments that have prepared you for the program
  • Future career goals with this degree
  • Why this particular program is a good fit for you
  • Conclusion with brief summary ending on a positive note

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

A curriculum vitae, often referred to as a CV, is a comprehensive overview of your scholarly and academic achievements as well as your professional accomplishments. It is the standard document for presenting your qualifications for graduate school and academic employment.

  • It is common to use CVs when applying to the following:
  • Academic and research positions
  • Grants, fellowships, awards
  • Some graduate school programs
  • Overseas employment and international organizations (different countries have different formats, so do your research here!)
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Worksheet: CV template
(link to create a copy of Google Doc)

Formatting tips:

  • Standard fonts (Times, Helvetica), 10-12 point.
  • Text formatting like bullet points and bold text to makes information easy to find!
  • There is no page limit. If you are just starting out, we recommend aiming for 1-2 pages.
  • Include your name and page number on every page.
  • List most relevant and compelling information at the top of your sections.
  • All entries within each section must be in reverse chronological order. 
  • Be consistent in your formatting, however you end up deciding to format your CV.
  • No mistakes allowed--misspelled words or similar grammatical mistakes are the fastest way to get your CV tossed!
  • Highlight results and accomplishments, not just tasks!
  • Save as a PDF document--title should include your name and date, such as "SammySlugCV2023.pdf."