Applying to a university is usually a straightforward process. Yet, aspiring students must be extra careful in every step and do the required paperwork correctly and meticulously, especially when they are expected to provide additional material, which they must write themselves.
For example, most educational institutions expect candidates to submit more than just basic information about their achievements, degrees, grades and GPA. Not to make it harder for them, but out of a necessity that seems inevitable. Evaluating numerous applicants with similar qualifications is a laborious process. So, universities ask potential students to differentiate themselves in some way. That's usually done by providing their honest, personal take on why they should be admitted and demonstrating their drive to excel in their studies.
That's called a motivation letter, and if written well, it could be the decisive factor in an applicant's admission.
What is a motivation letter?
A motivation letter is a brief (usually one-page long) letter to the selection committee. In it, candidates have to present their reasons for choosing that specific institution and demonstrate how they may thrive within its system.
In a few words, universities want aspiring members of their student body to be more than confident of their choice and fully motivated to make the most out of this opportunity. Of course, putting it into words is not enough. Applicants have to support their statements with valid arguments, exhibit a deep understanding of their preferred institution, and show they have a plan for their future.
Submitting a good CV is the first step to drawing attention to your application. But matching your list of qualifications to your personality, dreams, and aspirations makes you stand out in the eyes of your evaluators.
How can a motivation letter make a difference in a university application?
As mentioned above, university officials often have to go through several CVs that may not have distinct differences (especially when applicants are fresh out of high school). So, there aren't enough grounds for picking one over the others. That is when a motivation letter can separate you from the lot by persuading the committee of your conviction, work ethic, and desire to succeed.
In a way, writing a motivation letter is like standing in front of your evaluators and telling them confidently that you would be a perfect fit for their institution because:
Now, imagine every candidate did just that. Then, for your presentation to make a difference, you’d have to:
Let’s see how you can do that in written form with a motivation letter.
How to write a letter of motivation
Writing a near-perfect motivation letter is critical to a university candidate's success, so it cannot be taken lightly. It's not just a matter of finding a nice motivation letter template, filling in your information, and calling it a day, neither a secondary task to postpone until the last minute.
In many cases, your motivation letter is your application’s most important asset. That's why you must start writing it the moment you decide which program to apply to. And you must make it as distinct as possible without diverging from the general guidelines and best practices.
If you're considering applying to a university in Germany, make sure to check out our specialized motivation letter guide tailored specifically for German universities!
5 Tips for writing a great motivation letter
Before we continue our guide on how to write a good motivation letter, here's some valuable advice to keep in mind beforehand.
1. Read a few motivation letter examples
2. Learn everything about your future school
3. Outline your motivation letter content
4. Stay on point and skip the humor
5. Edit, re-edit, and proofread your motivation letter
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What’s the usual motivation letter structure
First and foremost, a motivation letter is meant to be read. Therefore, it must be brief, simple, polite, and to-the-point. If you want your point to be heard loud and clear, then your motivation letter must be reader-friendly and concise.
Starting from the structure, you must keep it straightforward and easy to navigate from section to section. For example, your motivation letter could consist of just:
As for the content, it depends on what the letter of motivation is for. More specifically, a letter for a bachelor's degree is different from a motivation letter for a master's or a PhD. That's because there are other criteria for admission to a post-graduate program and a broader academic background for the candidate to present for evaluation.
Motivation letter - Sample
To give you a point of reference, here's a motivation letter example for applying to a bachelor's program:
*Dear Sir or Madam,
With this letter, I would like to express my interest in studying for a bachelor's in X at the University of X.
I chose this program because it matches my academic strengths in my final years at X High School. During that time, I showed particular interest and excelled in X, Y, and Z, getting my highest marks and many praises from my teachers. A few months before graduating, I researched all possible academic paths based on my strongest subjects and eventually decided to study X. My subsequent research into the available X programs led me to apply to the institution you represent.
My decision was finalized after learning more about the University of X and its educational approach, campus life, internship programs, and post-graduate options. I gave it a lot of thought, and I believe it's the best environment for me to study what I'm passionate about and enjoy a rewarding academic and social life on the way. I especially look forward to participating in the various educational and recreational activities and becoming part of the U of X culture and community.
Also, I'm confident that the University of X has an excellent system for supporting my future plans. Whether I decide to continue my studies or start my career, I found there are many research-oriented courses and diverse internship opportunities to help me prepare for succeeding in my next endeavor. To me, this degree is the beginning of a long journey, and I'm eager to make it the basis for building a fruitful life and career.
Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to your positive response.
The above motivation letter includes some essential points for drawing positive attention to your candidacy. Feel free to add your own or make the tone and style a bit more personal. Just remember to always keep the final draft lean and readable.
Before you start your motivation letter…
When applying to a university, you cannot rely on your CV alone, no matter how bulked up it is. Since you don't know who you're competing against, you simply have to give your best at everything that is required of you.
The motivation letter is an excellent medium for speaking directly to the university committee and making a solid case for getting their thumbs up. That's why you have to put in the extra work and be sure to:
What do you say? Do you feel ready to write a great letter of motivation and get into the university of your dreams with flying colors?