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Application Materials - Statement of Purpose, GRE, Resume/CV & Recommendations

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Building Your Graduate School Application


In addition to a transcript, you may be required to submit a resume, personal statement or statement of purpose, GRE scores, writing sample, and letters of recommondation with your application. See below for some helpful resources in preparing these materials.

Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose

While the personal statement and statement of purpose differ slightly, the goal of each is to tell your story to the admissions committee. You should address your interests and explain how completing this graduate program will help you achieve your goals. It's also important to disclose how your experience has prepared you for graduate study in this field. Depending on your program area, you may also need to discuss your research interests.

Some additional tips for writing your personal statement:

  • Emphasize your uniqueness by taking out the things anyone could say.
  • In some cases, graduate programs will ask applicants to answer certain questions within the document. Make sure to address these questions in your statement.
  • If your academic record has a blemish, acknowledge it, indicate what you learned from it, and how you will be successful going forward.

The OU Writing Center has guides available to help you craft your personal statement or statement of purpose.


The GRE is a standardized test intended to show preparation for graduate study. It is comprised of three sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. The questions you encounter will require similar thinking to problems you will solve in graduate school.

  • Due to the testing center closures due to the COVID-19 virus, ETS recently instituted the GRE at Home Test. For more information about availability, please visite the GRE website.

The GRE website includes information on what to expect on the test, locations and dates for taking the test, and as well information about test preparation and GRE fee waivers.

  • Free test preparation – Applicants can access comprehensive test prep materials including real test questions. The GRE® Program provides two free simulations of the full test experience and other free materials on its website
  • GRE fee reduction - GRE fee reductions are available to eligible test takers and can be used for all GRE tests, including the at home tests. 

Remember, the GRE is not required for all graduate programs at OU; contact your academic unit to see if it requires a GRE score. If required, allow plenty of time to prepare for the test and to have your scores sent to the Graduate College Admissions office before the application deadline.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae

There are distinct differences between a resume and curriculum vitae (CV). Be sure you know which your program prefers. The resume is a summary of your education and experience, specifically relevant to the program to which you are applying. A CV is more detailed and includes publications and presentations, courses taught, grants and awards received, and professional memberships, in addition to your education and work experience. Either document should be tailored to the program to which you are applying. 

OU students can get help writing their resume or CV from OU Career Services.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should speak to familiarity with your work and how likely you are to succeed in graduate school. Most programs will prefer academic references, but if you don't have any available, supervisors from work or volunteer experiences can be just as valuable. 

When choosing your recommenders, make sure they are able to provide strong and positive letters on your behalf, and give them plenty of time to write and submit their letters. 

When you submit the OU application, you'll enter your recommenders' names and emails and the system will send an email with instructions for uploading their letter to your application.