About Letters of Recommendation...Key Components

  1. Academic references (faculty) best qualified to testify to student’s capacity for graduate work and represent student’s major field.
  2. Key elements admissions committees will be looking for include comments about student’s writing skills, research ability, critical thinking, academic growth and maturity, and potential for graduate study.

Important information for students applying to Graduate School

  1. Students should be alerting faculty that they will be applying to Graduate School and asking the faculty members if they are able to write a letter of reference.
  2. Faculty members have many requests for recommendations throughout the year. It’s in the student’s best interest to provide faculty members with enough information to evaluate them properly. They should remind faculty members in writing of the classes they took, including grades received, and research projects they worked on. Students should provide faculty members with a copy of their transcript, statement of purpose, a research paper, and any materials that may help the faculty member to evaluate them for graduate study.

(Adapted from Dr. Jacqueline Looney's presentation at the 2012 UNCF/Mellon Programs Conference)

About the Statement of Purpose of Personal Statement

The Statement of Purpose is a very important part of the student’s application. It is the student’s opportunity to tell the admissions committee beyond grades and GRE scores what he or she has to offer. 

There are five key questions that should be answered in the Statement of Purpose:

  1. Who are you? Keep it simple, focused, relevant.
  2. What is your research interest? You should be as specific as possible about what your research interests—being aware that these interests could change in your course of study.
  3. Why do you want to do it? (And what are your goals beyond earning the degree?)
  4. What prepares you to do it? Your special abilities, strengths and perhaps your weaknesses (honest self-knowledge can be a real asset).
  5. Why this school? (How does it match your research interests).

(Adapted from Dr. Jacqueline Looney's presentation at the 2012 UNCF/Mellon Programs Conference)

Factors in Selecting a Graduate School

  • Reputation of the institution, faculty, and research facilities
  • Availability of fellowships, scholarships, and financial aid
  • Geographic location
  • Availability of affordable housing
  • Social climate and support systems - accessible faculty and administration, physical and mental health services, travel grants for conferences and research, diversity, support for families, etc.
Graduate School Preparation Process

Graduate School Preparation Process

  • Assess interests, abilities, and career goals
  • Identify a mentor
  • Gather information on graduate programs
  • Gather application materials (online access available for most schools)
  • Learn entrance examination requirements and dates
  • Investigate application deadlines
  • Narrow a list of schools
  • Investigate funding sources
  • Write first draft of statement of purpose
  • Contact recommendation sources
  • Select schools
  • Register for entrance exams
  • Submit completed applications