Statement of purpose

Your statement of purpose is an important part of your UC graduate school application. Be sure to write a polished essay so you'll make a good first impression when you apply.

Content

The statement of purpose is a short essay that should be customized for each program you apply to. It will be evaluated by the graduate program faculty, so present yourself as someone who will be a good fit for the program.

Introduction

Indicate the degree you want to earn and the topic you want to study. Describe your research and how graduate school will help you reach your career goals, as well as the contribution you will make to the program.

Accomplishments

Summarize your undergraduate achievements, including research projects, classes or work that stimulated your desire for graduate studies.

Referrals

If you've received encouragement from professors in the program you would like to enter, mention that as well.

Format

Modify your statement of purpose for each application you submit, carefully following the guidelines and instructions, which may vary from program to program. Typically, your essay should be one to two pages, single-spaced, using a 12-point font that's easy to read. Proofread to make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors.

Tips

  • Address your audience

Your primary audience is the faculty in the program to which you are applying. Treat your statement of purpose as an application to work with a specific professor in that department or scholarly field.

  • Be compelling and clear

Be positive and concise. Write using an active voice.

  • Provide specific examples

Rather than simply saying you are a high achiever, for example, describe a project on which you exceeded the professor’s expectations.

If your grades suffered because of a misfortune or illness, explain how you persevered. You can describe a mistake that taught you a valuable lesson – but don’t make excuses.

Solicit feedback

When you have a strong draft of your statement of purpose, share it with your instructors and ask for their advice.

This also provides an opportunity to visit with your professors so they will know more about you and your research interests for your letters of recommendation.

Track your achievements

Starting as early as your freshman year, keep track of your research and activities so you'll have a complete list of accomplishments when you write your essay.