Statement of Purpose and Supplementary Materials

There are four documents that will be uploaded into the Supplemental Documents section of the online application; can you explain them?

The first document is the standard academic STATEMENT OF PURPOSE.  This is where you outline your research goals and academic interests, as well as your career goals.  It is crucial to the Admissions Committee that your statement 1) demonstrates familiarity with the academic study of religion, and 2) clearly states an intended area of emphasis and how your goals fit in with our programmatic strengths. You should also emphasize how and why this department will meet your research needs, and with whom you anticipate working.  Applicants applying with a master’s degree to the PhD program should articulate a focused and nuanced understanding of their intended area of research interest.  Applicants applying to the MA/PhD and MA Plan II programs are not expected to have narrowly focused areas of interest, but should indicate to the committee a general area/tradition, and an openness to be trained broadly in the academic study of religion. The Statement of Purpose is the only place in your file where the Admissions Committee gets to hear your voice.  It is well worth the time to craft it so it reflects who you are.

How long should the Statement of Purpose be?  There is no specific required length for the Statement; it varies widely and the emphasis should be on the quality of the information given rather than the quantity. As a very general rule of thumb, it is typically two to four pages long.

The second document, PERSONAL HISTORY & DIVERSITY STATEMENT (PH&DS), is oriented toward how you would contribute to the diversity of the student population at UCSB.  One of the reasons for this section is that there is a campus-wide fellowship competition based on merit plus diversity; this section helps the department identify applicants who might fit within a diversity profile and be nominated for the fellowship competition.  Be sure to pay careful attention to the requested information and be aware that there are many ways to fit within a diversity profile.  This section can also be regarded as a personal statement, where information on travels, life experiences, volunteerism, etc., can be included.

How long should the PH&DS be?   This must be written in narrative (essay) form without duplicating content from your Statement of Purpose. A minimum word count of 250 words is required.  There is no maximum length requirement.  Most statements are typically 1-2 pages.

The third document is a RESUME or a curriculum vita.

The fourth document is a WRITING SAMPLE.

Is a writing sample required?
, we do require a writing sample.  This is often a copy of a well-written term paper, and it should reflect favorably on your writing and research abilities.  It is most helpful to us if the sample explores your area of academic interest.  There is no specific length required, but it should be no longer than 15 pages. Applicants who have written a master’s thesis often submit an excerpt.


The instructions say three letters of recommendation are required; can I send more?
Yes, the online application permits up to four letters.

Do all of my letters have to be from former faculty or academic sources?
It is important that all three required letters be from former faculty or academic sources who can attest to your abilities in the classroom and to your writing and research abilities.  Additional letters can be from an employer, a colleague, a religious affiliate, or whomever you choose.  Remember that these letters are read alongside the other parts of your application, so choose letter writers who can best reveal what you want emphasized in your application.

I’ve been out of school for quite a while; do I still need letters from former instructors?
You would be surprised at how many faculty remember their former students, even after ten or more years.  It is always a good idea to approach them even if you’re not sure they’ll remember you.  If you had a good working relationship with any of your instructors, you should definitely ask them.  If you truly can’t find any faculty recommendations, then submit the best letters you can from reliable sources.


You are required to upload a transcript created by your university. This transcript will be used to review and evaluate your application.

Scan and upload all pages of your transcript from this institution (including the grading scale, which may be on the backside of the transcript). The uploaded transcript does not need to be an official transcript, but should be produced by the university with all appropriate seals/stamps. Remove your Social Security Number by crossing/blacking out numbers before uploading (if applicable).

Final/Official transcripts will be required for all applicants who are admitted and have indicated their intent to enroll at UC Santa Barbara by submitting a Statement of Intent to Register (SIR). Official transcripts must be sent to the UC Santa Barbara Graduate Division by mail directly from the school in the institution’s sealed envelope.

International Applicants:

Please include your degree certificate within the same file if you have received your degree. Uploaded document must include both the original language transcript and certified English translation. English transcripts are required and must be a complete, exact and literal translation of the original transcripts. English translations must be provided by the school or an official agency.

Tips for uploading transcripts:

  • Scan a copy of your current transcript
  • Ensure that your document is saved as a PDF and that its size does not exceed 9 MB
  • Color documents are not necessary
  • Ensure that the institution name and all other identifying marks are visible and clearly legible and that your scan can print on letter-size paper – 8 ½ by 11 in (21 ½ by 30 cm)
  • Be sure to include a copy of the transcript legend or university key for each institution (usually found on the backside of the official transcript or in the school’s general catalog or website)
  • Click the “view document” button to verify whether the uploaded document is legible, if it is not legible, try again
  • If you need assistance, please note that public libraries, office supply stores, and other services can create scanned documents for you

UC Santa Barbara reserves the right to require official transcripts at any time during the admissions process, and rescind any offer of admission made if discrepancies between uploaded and official transcript(s) are found.


Can supplemental materials arrive after the deadline?

All letters of recommendation and transcripts should be submitted online by the stated deadline of December 15th.  If a letter of recommendation or transcript arrives late due to circumstances beyond your control, we will accept it, but be aware that incomplete applications cannot be considered for review and late materials can jeopardize the whole application.  We strongly advise you to get your materials in by the deadline.