10 Tips for your Letter of Motivation
Now, let's move onto the really important aspect: how to actually write a successful letter of motivation. It seems sensible to begin at the beginning.
1. How do you start a motivational letter?
Kick off your letter with a broad statement of purpose, stating who you are, and why you are qualified and motivated to study the course in question. Do not start your letter of motivation by repeating your CV or aspects of the application form. Admissions staff don't need to know about that, and they will have a copy of your CV as well.
2. Use a neutral writing style as much as possible
When writing, put yourself in the position of the reader. They want to know that applicants are professional, capable, stable, and keen to study. This usually means adopting a neutral style that communicates information and suggests that you are a serious applicant.
3. Get specific about what the university requires
Universities want to know that applicants understand what courses entail. They want students who are motivated to study their courses - not simply people who want to study abroad. So include details about the course and university in your text wherever possible.
4. Include personal details in the right place
While a neutral style is important, there is a place for personal details - if they are relevant to your application. So, if you have a special reason for wanting to study biology at Heidelberg, put that into words. Let the university know what drives you, and where your motivation comes from.
5. Be careful about exaggeration
While applicants need to promote themselves, there's a difference between selling yourself and going over the top. Don't just list your accomplishments and skills. Link anything you mention to aspects of the course you are applying for.
6. Check the text for consistency
Always try to keep a consistent flow throughout the body of the letter, and don't leave any details in that seem out of place or irrelevant. If phrases or claims stand out, it gives the impression they have been forced into the text, and admissions staff may suspect that applicants are exaggerating.
7. How do you end a motivational letter?
The ending is almost as important as the introduction. Ideally, it will briefly summarize your reasons for studying, and express your hope to be considered. Don't make a joke to close the letter. Just be polite and clear about your desire to study.
8. Be disciplined about proofreading
After you've written the first draft, it's essential to check the text for errors. Any spelling or grammar errors could prove fatal for your application and should be removed immediately.
At this stage, cross-reference the course requirements with your text to ensure you've covered every aspect.
9. Give yourself the time you need to write a great letter
When writing a motivational letter, don't leave it until close to the application deadline. Instead, make it one of the first things you do. That way, you can leave it for a few days and revisit the text. In that time, new ideas could have occurred to you, and they could be what makes your letter exceptional.
10. Keep these basics in mind
Finally, try to follow these basic structural themes when putting your letter together. There are no rules about length, but 2 pages is about right.
Use an introduction to set a positive tone, the main body to set out what makes you a suitable candidate, and what attracts you to the course, and the conclusion to round things off.