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Documental Resources

This supplemental information will assist you in creating the documents necessary to complete as part of your application to a graduate program.

Not all departments require the Graduate Records Examination (GRE). To find out if your program requires the GRE check the departmental requirements under the academic program of choice.

The University of Idaho Institution Code for the GRE is 4843.

If you need a department code, and do not know your department code, use: 5199 

For more information on the (GRE), visit

Letters of recommendation must be uploaded into the application form by the recommender. Letters must include a current date, recommender contact information and signature. It is recommended that letters be on official letterhead.

A letter of recommendation is a letter that makes a statement of support for a candidate. This letter should present a well-documented evaluation, providing sufficient evidence and information to help an admission committee get a better picture of you and your potential.

Nearly every graduate program requires applicants to submit letters of recommendation. Don't underestimate the importance of these letters. While your transcript, standardized test scores and personal statement are vital components to your application, an excellent letter of recommendation can make up for weaknesses in any of these areas.

The best letters of recommendation come from professors, supervisors, or collaborator who know you well. A well-written letter of recommendation provides admissions committees with information that isn't found elsewhere in the application. A letter of recommendation discusses applicant's personal qualities, accomplishments, and experiences that make him/her unique and perfect for the programs to which he/she is applying. IMPORTANT: Letters of recommendation written by family members are not accepted unless the information refers to a professional setting such as a family business.

Selection committees normally weed out mediocre application packets before focusing on the excellent ones. This means that a brief letter with phrases like "good student" and "hard worker" that aren't substantiated with examples will get tossed aside in favor of the detailed letter that doesn't just tell but shows how qualified the student is. Remember, what makes a student's application packet stand out from the others are not only grades and accomplishments, but the specifics of what the student did and how he or she went about it.

What is the purpose of the recommendation letter?

Recommendation letters are letters written by professors who know you, assessing your capacity to meet the requirements of a program to which you are applying. They're supposed to help decision-makers to get a better picture of your potential. The most helpful letters come from teachers who have had considerable contact with you, especially in non-classroom setting such as research labs.

What information should be included in the recommendation letter?

A letter of recommendation is a detailed discussion, from a faculty member, of the personal qualities, accomplishments, and experiences that make you unique and perfect for the programs to which you've applied. A well written letter of recommendation provides admissions committees with information that isn't found elsewhere in the application. It should be written with the understanding that what makes a student's application packet stand out from the others is not only grades and accomplishments, but the specifics of what the student did and how he or she went about it. Selection committees normally weed out mediocre application packets before focusing on the excellent ones. This means that a brief letter with phrases like "good student" and "hard worker" that aren't substantiated with examples will get tossed aside in favor of the detailed letter that doesn't just tell but shows how qualified the student is.

Most committees look not only for what the student has already done but what he or she has the potential to accomplish. Addressing potential may take a little more time than discussing past deeds, but it may give the student the edge over other applicants.

Who should I ask for the letter of recommendation?

The best kind of letter is from someone who has been involved with you professionally. This person should know you and your work well and have a high opinion of you.

Good choices include:

  • The person who is supervising research on your part, such as your current or former scientific advisor

  • Your colleague from the lab with at least a doctorate

  • Your professors with whom you have/had frequent interactions

  • The dean or the department head of your department

A letter from an employer can be useful if the job was related to the field to which you are applying, and the letter comments on your accomplishments of specific duties, your aptitude for this type of work and so on. Otherwise, such letters are usually not helpful.

How many letters of recommendation do I need?

Most universities, including the University of Idaho, will ask you for three recommendation letters.

How long should the letter of recommendation be?

The optimum length is between 2/3 of a page and one page. If the Recommendation Letter is shorter the admission committee might assume that recommender lacks enthusiasm.

Is it possible that the admission committee will contact the recommender?

Yes, it is very possible. The admission committee might send the letter or e-mail or call (whichever information is provided on the recommendation) to inquiry further about a subject in the letter or asking whether this person really gave this recommendation.

The curriculum vitae (CV) serves as a good supplement to your statement and other application materials. Here you can summarize all of your qualifications, honors, education and interests. Limit your document to one to two pages.

Before preparing your CV/resume, take some time to evaluate your skills and think about those skills you will want to highlight. Then make a rough draft. You can edit later. There is no one right way to construct a CV/resume. No matter how you do it, there is bound to be someone who would suggest a different approach.

In this particular type the most reasonable format to use is chronological resume which presents work experience/education in chronological order by listing most recent events first.

The following are some general guidelines, tailor them to your needs and create a resume which represents you in the best possible way.

What to Include

Basic Information

  • Your name as you want to be referred to professionally (Jon Baker, Jonathon Edward Baker, Jon E. Baker)

  • Current address and phone number with area code (where you can be reached now)

  • Your email and webpage if you have one

  • It is not necessary to include other personal information such as Social Security number or marital status


Including an objective in this type of resume is optional. Career objective should answer this question, "What do I want to do?"
Some example objectives are:

  • Acceptance to graduate program in Physics

  • Research position in biochemical laboratory

Educational Background (for each degree conferring institution)

  • Institution

  • City, Country

  • Dates attended or graduation date

  • Degree or certification obtained

  • GPA (if proud of it)

  • Major/minor/emphasis area

  • Relevant coursework

  • Specialized instruction


This part of your resume may include several sections such as work experience, volunteer experience (internships, community service, student teaching), campus leadership and any other area in which you may have significant experience, such as computer knowledge.

Briefly describe for each position

  • Title, dates, organization name, location

  • Responsibilities

  • Use action words and verbs in active form to describe situations and achievements

  • Include scope of responsibilities

  • Concretely outline any outstanding results

Honors/Activities/Leadership/Special Skills

Front load these with those most important or most pertinent to your objective. You may want to use specific headings such as professional organizations, computer skills, and leadership positions. Include any honors, scholarships or recognition awards that you've received. If you were actively involved in any clubs, teams or committees while in college, those may be included also. The key to this section is keep it brief. If you feel you need more detail, use the guidelines for Experience and make it a complete section.


List some your interest which show you as an interesting and well-rounded person.

Resume Checklist

Here is a quick and easy way to see if your resume is ready. Self-rate your resume according to whether each item is W (Well done), T (needs a Touch up) or N (Needs work). You may also want a friend to use the same checklist on your resume in order to get a more objective opinion.


  • name, address, and telephone numbers are included

  • uses positive statements

  • contains all and only objective-related information. Does not include extraneous information such as marital status, height

  • is an advertisement of you, demonstrates your ability to produce results

  • is an accurate reflection of you and your experiences and abilities


  • is limited to 1-2 pages, unless you have extensive work or educational experiences

  • uses white space consciously and balances words on the page

  • is laser printed on quality paper (20# white)

  • uses consistent visual elements to attract attention and emphasize highlights (bold, italics, underlining, font sizes, bullets)

  • use standard sans serif typefaces such as Helvetica, Futura, Optima, Universe, Times (not 10 pt.), Palatino and New Century Schoolbook, in size 10-14

Writing quality

  • is clear and concise (easy to read and understand)

  • is consistent, using similar style throughout

  • uses a variety of action verbs which describe situations and actions

  • is perfect! Absolutely no typos, spelling errors, or grammatical errors

  • uses appropriate tense (usually past, unless currently in activity)

  • avoids passive voice


  • has been critiqued by several people

(Also known as: Statement of Career Objectives, Student Statement, Admissions Essay)

The personal statement is your opportunity to communicate to the admissions committee exactly what makes you stand out from the other applicants and why you are the “right fit” for the program. The more competitive the program, the larger the pool of applicants with equally strong credentials; which makes the personal statement very important, if not the deciding factor, in the selection process.  Therefore, it is important to devote ample time to writing your statement. Limit your document to 1-2 pages.

Remember your statement should catch the attention of the reader from the first line.

There are two general approaches for writing your personal statement.


The first one is the chronological approach, which is the most common one (which does not necessarily mean the best!). Avoid describing everything from your childhood very thoroughly. We advise to use no more than one paragraph to write about your childhood and school years unless something extraordinary happened that ties directly to your potential studies. Do not use generalities. You should be as exact as possible in your descriptions.

Additionally, you should write about your research interests and, if possible, previous projects or experience which have stimulated your thinking and helped crystallize your desire to pursue graduate study in your chosen field. It is appropriate to write about the seminars, conferences or internships which you have attended. Try to articulate how these activities have assisted you in your development as a scholar. It is not necessary to discuss your previous institutions or faculty unless there is something truly extraordinary which happened that is not likely to be visible to the scientific or professional community.


The second approach is thematic. In this case the statement is organized around one or two key ideas, and usually it relates to your research field or your major interest. The statement might provide chronology, or you might cite your childhood experiences in the middle of your statement to prove some point, and write about your current research in the very beginning. The point is that your key idea should shine through the structure of the statement.

There are more ways to organize your statement; however, the two above are the most common. You should choose a style that will tell your story in the best way. The ultimate goal is to sell yourself to the graduate program and persuade them you will be a positive and welcome addition to their program.

The Statement of Purpose should present a vibrant and original picture of your character and aspirations and most importantly, leave a positive and lasting impression in the minds of the admissions committee. 

Step 1. Determine the focus of your statement of purpose

The goal of the statement of purpose is to persuade the admissions committee to choose you for their program. Whatever focus you choose, it must be clear and supported by examples throughout the entire essay. As you start to construct your personal statement, answer the questions below in a paragraph or two. These will help you decide what to focus on in your statement.

  1. Why do you want to attend graduate school? (knowledge, money, prestige, etc.)

  2. What research experiences have you had if any? (both formal and informal)

  3. What are some topics that you think you might want to research?

  4. What’s special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story? What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the admissions committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?

  5. What are your career goals?

  6. What is your ideal vision of the future?

  7. When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?

  8. How have you learned about this field – through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?

  9. Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?

  10. What skills (for example leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?

  11. If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?

Step 2. Determine the contents of your statement

  • Prepare an outline by selecting the main topics you want to cover and list supporting statements under each topic.

  • Remember, that while information on your past work is important, it is most relevant to point out its connection to your interest in this particular field of study. The admission committee is primarily concerned with your current and future interests and aspirations.

Step 3. Organize your statement

Opening paragraph – Introduce yourself and give your general reasons for pursuing graduate study. 

Grab their attention by stating particular talents that make you an individual they should consider.

Body – Build your foundation for your forthcoming work

  • Explain why you chose this field.

  • Explain your expertise and accomplishments in your field, including research (mention the project name and professor that you worked with)

  • Talk about your undergraduate studies in general and how they relate to what you want to do in graduate school (do not list specifics that are contained in transcripts).

  • Describe other relevant experiences (volunteer, organizations, jobs, etc.) and be sure to include names and other important details.

  • Explain why these various experiences demonstrate your motivation and inspiration for continued study.

  • Briefly explain any discrepancies on your transcript. No details are necessary.

  • Mention specific faculty you are interested in working with (make sure they are still at that university).

Background – Tell them about yourself. Describe your family and community (or a community in which you once lived). Did someone influence you to pursue higher education or a particular career goal? Give examples of personal attributes or qualities you know will help you successfully complete graduate school. For example, describe your determination, initiative, creativity, capacity to solve problems, ability to develop ideas and work with people, etc. Be sure to back these up with facts.

Closing paragraph – Finally, leave the reader with a strong sense that you are qualified and will be successful in graduate school. Briefly summarize highlights and close strong.

Step 4. Write, read, rewrite...

  • After writing you first draft, set it aside. In the meantime read as many sample statements as you can, while paying attention to how good statements differ from bad ones.

  • After a day or so, reread your draft. If it still sounds good, make basic changes and additions according to what you have learned from the sample statements and go to the next step. If not, rewrite it.

Step 5. Distribute, analyze, rewrite...

  • Put your draft away for a day or two, and then reread it again.

  • Make changes, and then proofread (yes, again).

  • Now it's time to send or give your statement to all your friends. The more people who read your statement, the more comments and ideas you will receive.

  • The more drafts you do, the more refined your statement will be. The time and energy that you put into this activity should result in a personal statement that can be used, with minor modifications, for each university and/or scholarship to which you apply.

If there is a question, answer it!

Schools will have different formats for asking questions so pay attention to detail. Do not be tempted to use the same answers or statement for each application.

Tell a story.

Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is bore a committee. If you distinguish yourself, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific.

Do not, for example, state that you would make a good statistician unless you can back it up. Your desire to become an engineer, psychologist, etc. should be logical – the result of specific experiences described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Remember: motivation, experience, goals.

The majority of graduate programs do not interview their applicants. The personal statement might be the only part of your application that comes to the committee in your own voice. Make sure that it tells the committee things that cannot already be found in your transcript. The three key issues are your motivation for pursuing this particular degree, the experience you have that has prepared you for the rigors of graduate work, and your long and short-term goals. Do not get more too personal and don’t use more than 1/3 of your statement on personal stories. Think about the culture of the field for which you are applying, and write accordingly.

Make every word count in your favor.

Do not exceed the page or word limit (if there is one – typically it is one or two, single spaced pages), do not use smaller than 11 – point font, and do not shrink the margins. You need to be concise and as specific as possible. Do not be repetitious or make a list of work or class experience. Do not reiterate your transcript.

Use the language of the discipline to which you are applying.

When discussing your research and the areas that interest you in the graduate program to which you are applying, use the correct terminology and vocabulary. Doing so will illustrate to the reader that indeed, you know that of which you speak. Do not be afraid to raise important issues you want to tackle in graduate school.

Speak in depth about your research experiences.

Faculty are interested in finding colleagues from among the many applicants to their programs. Imagine reading 500 statements to accept 10 or 15 students. What would you want to know about the people you are selecting? If you have experience as an undergraduate working with ultra-fast laser spectrometry, and are interested in pursuing this in your graduate program, let them know! If they have such research group, you might be a great fit. If they don’t have that kind of research, why are you applying there? List research projects in order of interest to your target audience but don’t limit yourself to only those projects.

Research the programs to which you are applying.

Make contact with professors you are interested in working with. Let the reader know that you will fit into the work that is going on there. Remember that in addition to answering the question of why you will be the best student for the committee to accept, you must explain why this program is the best one for you. The fit issue works both ways. Do your homework – go online and find out exactly what kind of research is going on your prospective department. If you have established contact with a professor at a potential school and have an interest in working with them, mention their name.

Be grammatically correct.

Use spell check (or even a dictionary) and have at least three people proofread it (preferably faculty or editor types). It is always a good idea to have at least three people proof your final draft.

Avoid clichés and do not include some subjects.

There are certain things that should left out if personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school are not a good idea. Do not mention potentially controversial issues (religious, political etc.). 

Above all, be yourself and do not apologize.

While you should explain any gaps or inconsistencies in your transcript, do so in a positive manner rather than an apologetic one. Remember that these inconsistencies might be addressed in a separate letter. It’s a good idea to have one of the faculty briefly address this issue in their letter of recommendation if they are comfortable with it.

Office of Graduate Admissions

Physical Address:

820 Idaho Avenue
Morrill Hall, Room 205
Moscow, ID 83843

Mailing Address:

University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3019
Moscow, ID 83844-3019