Application Suggestions

We often receive questions about the letters of recommendation and the personal statement.  Please see the suggestions below from the CMB Program in regards to these topics or search online for helpful hints about letters of recommendation and personal statements. 
Letters of recommendation

  • Three letters are required.
  • Letters should be from those who can attest to your research abilities, problem solving skills, scientific creativity, work ethic, data interpretation, maturity, etc. Ideal references would be from the faculty member/PI in whose laboratory you performed research. Letters from postdoc or graduate student mentors are not appropriate on their own, but can be used to supplement.
  • Letters from course instructors (laboratory courses or otherwise) are generally not useful, and should be avoided when possible.
  • Please keep in mind that submitting more letters than required may be detrimental to your application.

Personal statement / Reason for Graduate Study / Statement of Purpose/CV

  • Should be about 2 pages (~1000-1200 words).
  • Persuade the admissions committee that you are an applicant who should be selected for an interview by telling them about yourself, your motivations, and how you have prepared for entering a PhD program.
  • Only include information that is relevant to your application; focus on professional and academic preparation for graduate school.
  • Describe your previous research experiences, including summer and intern positions. Focus should be on the general description of the project, its scientific/clinical relevance, and your role in it. Specific details should be avoided unless they are critical to understanding the big picture.
  • Be concise and clear about why you are applying to graduate school in CMB at UW-Madison as opposed to other programs/universities. Show the admissions committee that you understand why CMB at UW-Madison is a good fit for you. Explain your professional goals and how admission to CMB at UW-Madison will help you accomplish them.
  • Proofread your essay, share it with others, have your faculty mentors, letter of recommendation writers, and friends read it to make sure it conveys your story, and that it is free of grammatical errors. A well-written statement demonstrates attention to detail and maturity.
  • Please attach your CV to the application as well (can be uploaded into the online application separate from the personal statement).