Sample Outline for the Statement of Purpose*
(and Statement of Reasons for Graduate Study)
Your Statement of Purpose should be clear, concise, and complete in sentence structure. However, try to be as informative as possible throughout the Statement. The statement should only be 1 to 2 1/2 pages long so you need to be concise. Before you submit your Statement of Purpose to the department of your chosen field of interest and/or to the graduate school, you should ask your advisor or a faculty member at your current institution to read and comment on your written work. Prior to this, drafts should be shared with your friends and family.
Opening Paragraph. Here you want to introduce yourself and give your general reasons for pursuing graduate study. Because the selection committee members will read many applications, make your statement relevant by stating your particular talents and individuality.
Qualifications. In this section, the aim is to build a foundation for your forthcoming work. You should discuss the following:
- Why you chose this field and what motivated you
- Your expertise and accomplishments in your major field, including any research you've performed, mentioning the project and the name of the professor you worked for or under the direction of
- Your undergraduate studies in general and how they relate to what you intend to do in graduate school
- Your specific experiences that demonstrate your motivation and inspiration for continued study
- Other relevant experiences (i.e., jobs, community activities, leadership in school organizations, awards, honors, etc.), including names of persons, organizations, and other important details
- Explain (briefly) any discrepancies on your transcript which would include having a lower GPA in a particular semester or year (no details are necessary)
- Mention specific faculty you are interested in working with.
Background. Here you want to tell the school about yourself. Also, describe your family and your community (or a community in which you once lived). You could include whether your family, a family member in particular, or someone in your community influenced your chosen field of interest. Also, you want to give examples of personal attributes or qualities that you know will help you successfully complete graduate study. For instance, describe your determination to achieve your goals, your initiative and ability to develop ideas, and your capacity to work through problems independently.
Closing Paragraph. Finally, leave the reader with a strong sense that you are qualified and will be successful in graduate or professional school.
*Thanks to the University of California System for their contribution in writing this sample outline for the Statement of Purpose.
How much funding will I need to show to attend graduate school?
See International Applicant Financial Information.
I don’t have a transcript with a degree posted. When do I submit my final transcript?
When you get your final transcript and certification of degree, you can mail it to our office, or you can bring it with you when you arrive on campus. An enrollment hold for your second semester will be in place until we receive your final official transcript and degree certification. If you need to keep your original documents, we will make copies for our files. Our office location is Room 232, Bascom Hall.
I am an international applicant. Do I need to send my financial documents with my application materials?
Do not send any financial documentation until requested to do so by the Graduate School. The request will be made on your online status page when your academic records are approved.
I am an international student. When I check my status, a “hold” has been placed on my enrollment. What does this mean?
When you were admitted to the UW–Madison Graduate School, some academic documents were missing. The “hold” prevents future enrollment but will not affect the term you were admitted. To remove this hold, you must present the documents that were requested in your online status check.
If I take an English proficiency test, will I be required to take ESLAT?
Any admitted student whose score is lower than the scores listed below will be required, by the Graduate School, to take the English as a Second Language Assessment Test upon arrival at UW–Madison.
TOEFL: 92 for internet based test (IBT) and 580 for paper test
Depending on your test result you may be required to register for an English as a Second Language (ESL) course in your first semester. Academic Programs may ask any admitted graduate applicant to take the English Placement test and ESL course after he/she arrives if English proficiency is in doubt. For more information on English proficiency test requirements, click here.
If I enroll in the English as a Second Language Program, am I guaranteed admission to the university?
Enrollment in the English as a Second Language program (ESL) does not ensure admission to a graduate program at UW–Madison. You will not be able to register for courses outside the ESL curriculum during your enrollment in ESL.
If I take English as a Second Language, will I be required to take TOEFL?
If you are not a native English speaker, or your undergraduate institution’s language of instruction is not exclusively English, an English proficiency test (TOEFL or IELTS) is required. All electronic test scores should be sent to institution code 1846. IELTS scores can be mailed or submitted electronically.
Why do I have to show a permanent home address?
In order for an I-20 or DS-2019 to be printed, the SEVIS system requires that you list a permanent address in your home country. It must be a residence address. No post office box numbers, businesses or university addresses are allowed.
Does the UW–Madison Graduate School offer “conditional admission”?
UW–Madison does not offer conditional admission. All students must apply through the Graduate School website.