The motivation letter (also knowne as “statement of purpose”) is a document where you describe your professional competence and personal motivation about choosing to study a particular study field at a particular university.
It’s the most personalized and important document you can create to send to a university during the application process. Very often the motivation letter will make the biggest difference between getting admission and getting rejected at the university you’re sending your application to.
How To Write Your Motivation Letter
In the letter, you can write relevant and interesting details about yourself which can prove to the admission officers that you are the right candidate to be selected to participate in their program.
The motivation letter plays a decisive role in determining whether you will be accepted or not. It can be very challenging to present yourself in the way that would convince the study institution. Even if you are an outstanding student with the highest grades, many accomplishments, and very motivated you may not make it to a university based on the way you have written your motivational letter.
These characteristics must show in the best possible way in your motivation letter without sounding flat, otherwise, it will be considered inadequate!
It does not have to be personal in a way that makes you appear non-serious, rather focus on your intellectual personality. Be careful to not indulge a lot in your deficit side; always focus on your strengths and reasons why you are the right person for the university.
*Suggestion: plan ahead before attempting your final draft writings. Firstly, plan the concept, then the layout, the structure and fine-tuning.
- The concept should contain all your thoughts on why you want to pursue the specific degree, the qualities you can bring to the program, why the specific university is the best option for you. Then, bring these ideas to a draft.
- The layout is the way your document is formatted, and it should show your professionalism. If there are no specifications in the university’s description of the motivational letter, you should attempt at keeping it to a maximum length of two pages.
- The structure defines the flow of the letter, with a bright introduction leading smoothly to an intense body and a summary of the content. The conclusion should once more indicate to your personal advantages.
- Fine-tuning is about the word usage you have selected. You should avoid using complex words and constructions as they can a turn-off or irritating to the admission officers.
Use rather eloquent, persuasive, smooth language, where you show why you are outstanding instead of telling. And, check grammar, spelling, and also get feedback from close people whose opinions you value.
Things to keep in mind when writing your motivation letter
- Do not repeat what is already written in the application form or CV – this one is very important to keep in mind as the admission officers will receive many motivational letters from many candidates and if you repeat yourself it will become tiresome.
Try to place yourself in their position! You might notice that you need to be either more creative, interesting, or bold in your motivational letter.
- Write based on university specifics – while you are constructing your motivational letter be careful to prioritize interests that correlate with the programs provided by the university.
Think of how you will benefit from the programs you are going after and why you are motivated to attend those courses. Usually, universities have very clear and informative requirements on their websites, as well as what qualities and qualifications in candidates they are looking forward to.
- Making a flat introduction – your introduction is the most important part of your letter. It will determine whether the admission officers will engage and continue reading through the whole letter.
This is where they will decide if they are going to proceed with your file or dismiss it completely. Think of a way to not sound cliché and yet at the same time intelligent and engaging.
- Do not try to make too many points – another thing is that you might get very excited and wanting to show many of your important assets, and somehow on the road make a mess in the connection between interests.
You may seem as if you are trying to say a lot in order to make them like you. You wouldn’t want to seem desperate or a show-off, in both cases you will not be a very attractive candidate, so be consistent!
- Share something about yourself – share your interests and your feelings when you take part in activities that correlate with the program in question. Think of ways how it has manifested in your thought-patterns and motivation. Share a moment or a story where you understood the importance of the subject.
- Do not force the letter towards humor – sounding positive is very important, but trying to be very humorous in the motivational letter can turn out the wrong way, as you for one, cannot know the kind of things people find funny.
What can be funny and interesting to you may not be the same for another person and the case may be that you are not on the same frequency as the personnel.
Instead, try to keep humor on the side while all the time keeping positive and interesting. Humor can be overdone and it can be the one thing that will set you away from your dream program.
- Do not be someone else – always bring forward your own voice, tone, and self. Do not try to be someone you are not and in this way cause yourself to fall out of selection. Tell the things that are true to you and in your truest voice!
These things are easy to spot for the admission officers and you wouldn’t want to be spotted pretending you’re someone you’re not! You have very interesting things that have happened to you and your life is important and you surely have unique qualities, so think of those things and present them.
If you think hard enough, you will see you are enough. There is no need to pretend. Sometimes, being very involved in our own lives may make us not believe we are interesting enough!
- Answer all questions – pay attention to answering all the questions that are asked of you. Do not neglect since having been written in prospects, they must be important! Keep that in mind and try not to think less of any.
- Do not write your personal statement/motivational letter at the last minute – this one is very, very important. Give yourself enough time to write many drafts until you bring to life your personality.
If you do it within a matter of a few or in the last days, you may forget valuable things and it will not have the consistency required. Start writing your motivational letter, at least, a month ahead. Be clear about your goals!
- Do your proofreading – proofreading is a must. When it’s time to proofread, after correcting all grammatical or punctuation, or line structuring mistakes, give your motivational letter to someone whose opinion you value and listen to their suggestions. Do not give it to a lot of people as you might lose your voice completely.
After reading it too many times you may become unwary of the little mistakes. Also, because in your head you know exactly what you mean, you may not see the sentence inaccuracies. That’s why it is important that someone with a fresh sight gives it a good look!
What’s the difference between a cover letter and a motivational letter?
Both are pretty similar in terms of structure but have different purposes. The motivation letter is used mainly on education, therefore there are various motivation letters.
For example, you may need a letter of motivation for scholarship, a letter of motivation for university admission and so forth. Whereas, the cover letter is used mainly to apply for jobs.
This letter is supposed to come as a complimentary item to your CV where you only display your qualifications. On a motivation letter, you support the CV by offering additional reasons and experiences that make your qualifications worthy. Therefore, the motivation letter is a little bit more personal communication between you and the other party, at least for the way it is delivered.
To a certain degree, the motivation letter is the third most important document in your application behind your degree and your grades from the previous education. Naturally, when applying at a University there are numerous students with the same qualifications and grades as you and the only point that helps the admission committee filter out the best candidates is by looking at your motivation letter.
Universities are highly interested in selecting candidates who other than having higher qualifications, also have accompanying strengths. Most of the time they look for students who show a great competency of leadership and communicative skills and know how they are planning to use their university degree for the betterment of self and the community.
As such, never underestimate the role of the motivation letter in your application. But, while writing a common motivation letter may not be hard, writing an exceptional one (which is surely what you should aim for) is way harder. If you follow the above-mentioned strategies and tips it this won’t be the case for you.
There’s no standard format of letter of motivation
First, don’t expect to find a letter of motivation format where you will only have to type some common information for yourself and you’re good to go. There’s not a universal standard form of motivation letter.
Otherwise, how you would be able to tell the university admission committee what they exactly what to hear from you? However, these tips and strategies you read above are some major points that make up the basic framework of every motivation letter.
Before leaving here are two other pieces of advice you should never neglect when writing a motivation letter.
1. Know who you’re writing to
When writing a motivation letter, your starting point is to know to whom you’re writing to. By having in mind this, right at the beginning, you can adjust your writing accordingly and the flow of your writing will be just as required.
Writing a motivation letter for Bachelor’s degree is different from writing a motivation letter for PhD. Writing a motivation letter for a bachelor degree is academically less competent than the motivation letter for a Master’s degree and even less competent compared to motivation letter for a PhD degree.
Let say you’re applying for a Master’s degree program. From the very first sentence of your motivation letter you may have put a larger focus on your experiences that you had, trying to sound much more competent than you’re, you may forget explaining properly how these experiences make you the right candidate for the place you’re applying for.
If you would be writing a motivation letter for PhD, the admission committee would expect from you to show more experiences that you had and is much more specific about what are your future plans after taking that degree. In other words, you will fail to adjust your writing to what is required from the admission committee and therefore you won’t take your place at the university.
Writing a motivation letter for study abroad may require you to ask yourself other questions. You must try to convince your university that your degree in your home country (for whom they may not have any idea at all) will add value to their community. Similar to this, if you are writing a motivation letter for exchange programs they’re usually interested to know what qualities you think you can bring alongside.
If you’re not aware of these at the beginning you may fall off the course and miss the target of your motivation letter. In other words, the quality of your CV is equally to how good you deliver it.
2. Read many motivation letter examples
There is a saying:
“Example is the best definition”.
The final version of your motivation letter for university admission cannot (and should not) be done with your first shot.
You need to practice a lot in order to write a motivation letter that will make its effect on your application. The best strategy for practicing is by looking at different examples of motivational letters that are proven to be successful.
By looking at different examples you will get a general picture upon which major elements your motivation letter should be based on. Also, it will help you envision how you want to write down your motivation level.
Here’s a step-by-step editing guide on this strategy:
- First, write a raw version of your motivation letter
- Do a fast scanning
- Compare it with the motivation letter examples you have read
- Identify missing pieces and how you can improve
- Repeat the whole process until you see don’t see what you can change further.
Don’t look at too much motivation examples because you may end up trying to match every minor element and therefore remove the originality, which is a necessity. And, be patient. Practice as much as you can.
Don’t wait three days or a week before the deadline to write a motivation letter. Start way earlier than a week. A month would be just OK.