A motivational letter, also known as a personal statement or a cover letter, is a short piece of writing all about you; your past, your ambitions, your personality, and your interests. While completing CVs and forms can be a little dry and boring, motivational letters can be hard to write. The combination of needing to produce such an intimate piece of writing, worded in such a way that it comes across as both authentic and professional, and then using it to sell yourself to a university, creates the perfect recipe for social awkwardness and writer’s block.
Despite the difficulty of writing a decent motivational letter, it’s a fundamental skill in today’s jobs market – once you leave full-time education, you’ll need to write motivational letters to potential employers. With this in mind, writing a motivational letter for a masters degree is excellent practice. Below, we’ve prepared a couple of fail-safe techniques you can apply to writing a motivational letter so that it won’t either sound sterile or arrogant, and will help you stand out from the crowd.
· Cover the basics: The central function of a motivational letter is to convince the admissions team at the university of your choice to offer you a place, or invite you to interview. Make sure that the letter is structured in such a way that it serves this purpose – it is usual to conclude a motivational letter by asking directly that you be admitted or invited for interview, depending upon what the next step of the admissions process is. Equally important is the calibre of your written language; if your motivational letter is riddled with grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, or doesn’t make sense, the university will almost certainly refuse to admit you. A great starting point is to look at some templates for motivational letters in your chosen field, to see how they are structured, and what key points you need to cover.
· Focus on ideas and main points
· Start with writing down some of the main ideas, important points you would like to approach in your letter and later build around them, then enrich their content. An example would be:
· Make your goal clear: provide a short preview of the rest of the letter;
· Why do you think that the university and the Master's programme are interesting and suitable for you?
· Focus on some of your strongest qualifications, past experiences (international experiences are always relevant) and qualities; organise the middle paragraphs in terms of the qualifications most relevant to the programme to the least, and you can also refer to your CV for more details;
· Conclude by restating your interest and show appreciation for the chance to prove yourself in the letter (in some cases, you can ask for a personal interview).
· Get personal: A standard for all cover letters – including those for job-seekers – is that you must address your letter to a specific person. For your masters course, it could be the Head of Department, or the academic staff member responsible for your masters study programme. If you will be working closely with an academic supervisor – as with most research degrees – your cover-letter should be addressed to the academic you’d prefer to supervise you. Use the university’s website to figure out who the right person is, and address the letter to them using their name and title.
· Be Personal & original
· Give your readers some insight about you, as an individual. Remember this is a very personal document in which you are expected to prove that you are different from the rest of the applicants and that your qualities, skills and qualifications make you suitable for participating in the programme.
· Although it might be sometimes helpful to have other examples, do not copy other letters you have seen and try to be original, as it will help a lot! Also, avoid bragging too much about yourself. You are not expected to present yourself as a superhero, but to be objective and realistic.
· First impression matters
· Whether it is the way your letter looks, the way it is organised and structured in paragraphs, the font size, the length of the letter, or even the first paragraph, the first impression always counts!
· Be professional and consistent
· Present your letter in a professional format, style, and grammar. Have it checked for spelling mistakes and be consistent (e.g. use the same font, the same abbreviations throughout the letter, etc.).
Other opinions and advice
It is always a good idea to ask your friends, a teacher or someone who has already done such an application for advice. Usually, you can get in touch with students who are already studying the Master's programme you are applying for and they can give good advice.
ü Show, don’t tell: This is true of CVs, and is true of motivational letters too. “I am a good leader” sounds a lot weaker than “I led a group of my fellow students on a week long climbing expedition, where we successfully…”. Avoid any overly ambiguous statements, as these can diminish the confidence the admissions team may have in your motivations. Also, make sure not to show things twice – if you’ve discussed something extensively in your CV, don’t dwell on it in your motivational letter.
ü Do your research: Academic institutions often have a lot to say about their values, priorities and vision. What’s your target institution’s motto? Do they prioritise sports, arts, or something else? Do they have a statement of values? How do you reflect these things? The most important question to think about in relation to these things – why is it that you want to go here? Weaving your knowledge of these things into your letter is a great way to assure admissions tutors that your choice to study at their institution is an informed one.
ü Be specific: One of the biggest problems at application is that candidates don’t adequately explain why it is they want to study what they’ve applied for. Remember, you’ve got to explain your choice of subject, and your choice of institution. Not just “Why Biology?” but “Why Biology at this university?” If you don’t yet have answers to this question, then it is well worth going through the University’s website again, to work out what inspired you to take the next step, and apply for your chosen course.
ü Write a story: People love stories. They like to be taken on a journey, and brought to a satisfying conclusion. A list of superlatives or accomplishments is nowhere near as compelling as an epic story that weaves all that you’ve done into a coherent account, that supports the choice you’ve made to apply. Like all stories, make sure your motivational letter has a clear beginning, a middle, and an end. These should all follow logically on from one another, so that the reader is left feeling convinced of the suitability of your chosen course and institution, to your skills, experience, and goals.
ü Be interesting: This is without doubt the most important feature of a motivational letter – you absolutely must capture the reader’s interest. If you come across as boring (or worse, bored) on paper, it’s much less likely that you’ll get a positive reply. But furthermore, the interest you express has got to be personal, and it must relate directly to your motives. It’s absolutely no use whatever to produce some bland, boring page or two about hard work and how interested you are in your subject. This is exactly what every other candidate will write, and for the most competitive courses, you will want to stand out. But the best way to do this is not to try to be someone else; be yourself. Mention the fact that you like juggling. Talk about how you felt when your father was laid off work. Begin from your earliest memory. So long as what you say relates to what makes you the person you are, and then why that person has chosen to apply for this course, it deserves to be there.
However, as we mentioned before, always remember to be original and avoid copying other letters!
Example 1: Motivation Letter for a Masters of Science Degree (MSc)
Dear sir /Madam,
My name is [name] and most recently I have been working as a [job title] at [company name]. I hold a B.Sc degree in [subject] from [university name].
The undergraduate curriculum in [subject], [university name], introduced me to a wide variety of subjects in the field of [subject]. Various courses like [course 1], [course 2], [course 3] (name all relevant courses) provided me with a strong footing in [subject of the masters degree].
While offering both depth and breadth across this field, these courses put into perspective the importance and relevance of [subject] and the application of its fundamentals to the problems faced by the real world.
I am much eager to adopt and know new technologies. I am really enthusiastic to attend a Master of [subject] at [university name] in order to understand different [subject] concepts and its applications to more complex real life situations. The good reputation of high-quality education standards, an extremely distinguished faculty members, and research facilities are the factors which have motivated me to apply for my masters studies at [university name].
Moreover, I feel I am responsible for making a big move in this field and this scholarship will give me a big chance to be one day someone who is remembered for his innovations. I think it is our duty as people sharing life in this world to make our future better because the future is not only ours. The next generation should be proud of us one day when they look back and find how hard we worked to make the world a better place. I believe my qualification and your needs would be an excellent fit. I will be happy to provide any further information or documents if required. I look forward to your positive response. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Cover letter: the letter that comes with a file or a report and says things like: please find herewith our detailed advice on your taxes, or please find herewith the proposed plan to remodel your home, as well as the detailed expected cost, etc.
SOP (“Statement of Purpose”): detailed instructions, often called with familiarity “idiot sheet.” For example, a detailed list of what to do to use correctly a machine.
Motivation letter: most often a request of being accepted by a college of university. It says you want to be accepted and answers the questions in the mind of the jury such as: are you good enough, and would you fit in.
Letter of intent: it is a pre-contract. You are interested in making a deal and you summarize what the main conditions of deal would be.
Motivation letter for Master in Computer Science
Motivation Letter Example: Student Applying to Master in International Information Systems
I am particularly interested in this job, as…
I would like to work for you, in order to…
My strengths are…
I would say that my only weakness / weaknesses are… . But I am looking to improve in this / these area/s.
I would be well suited to the position because…
My area of expertise is…
Even under pressure I can maintain high standards.
I have a lively interest in … and would appreciate the opportunity / chance to broaden my knowledge by working with you.
I am highly motivated and look forward to the varied work which a position in your company would offer me.