Letter/Statement of Intent
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What is it?
- intellectual autobiography that conveys the continuum of experiences and events in your academic life which have led you to desire an academic graduate education.
- What you did academically, why and with whom.
- What you want to do academically, where, why, and with whom.
Before you write:
- DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
- Get the school’s catalogue.
- Confirm that the degree program offered matches your career goals.
- Review the courses offered by the school that pertain to your goals.
- Get the names of specific faculty members with whom you want to study.
- Ask your current teachers if they know any of the faculty members in the proposed graduate program.
How is it organized?
- State the program to which you are making application,
- whether you are seeking a master's or doctorate,
- and in a general sense, why you are applying to the program.
- Begin in a direct manner.
Your Qualifications and Background
- Experiences that have served as a foundation for your future graduate work,
- how your interest in the field developed,
- and how you planned academically for your goal.
- Undergraduate studies in general,
- your major, and any specialization within the major, in specific terms.
Weave into the letter
- Any academic achievements or accomplishments.
Specific learning experiences that demonstrate your motivation and inspiration for continued study and/or research:
- independent study courses or research with professors
- teaching assistantships
- undergraduate research conference presentations
- published work
- laboratory experiences
- research internships
- seminar courses
- honors thesis
- relevant education abroad
- independent writing
- academic honors and/or very closely related work experience
Discuss in detail
Explain special projects or research
- indicates ability to explore or master certain skills or particular knowledge about your academic field
- illustrates to the committee that you have
- the initiative and ability to develop ideas
- the capacity to work through problems independently
- the determination to achieve your goals
Mention special skills
- laboratory techniques.
- computer skills
- foreign language proficiency
- advanced quantitative and statistical expertise.
Closing Paragraph: Planned Academic Future
- specifically why you wish to attend their particular program.
- specifically how the department's graduate curriculum matches your short and long term academic and career goals.
- show evidence of your investigation of their program, its faculty and their research, and their departmental resources and facilities.
- indicate how your academic and intellectual interests form a match with the research interests of one or more faculty in the program or department.
Tell the Graduate Committee
- that you are qualified and motivated.
- that you will be successful in graduate study and research.
- why you believe you possess the experience and skills to be admitted to their program.
Style of Letter
- direct and straightforward manner
- no contrivances or gimmicks
- place central points early
- use active, not passive voice
- do not use words such as rather, quite, somewhat, fairly, pretty much
- be accurate and precise
- be positive
- emphasize strengths
- explain anomalies
- cut out redundancy
- be organized, orderly, specific and concise.
- use examples where needed
- keep the statement to one or two typed pages.
- use transitions that tie each paragraph to the next.
- do not assume that the committee will understand everything.
- explain course titles and research projects where necessary
Many thanks to Professor Lynn Beene from the UNM English Department for allowing us to use these guidelines!