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How to Write a Motivation Letter to the University
And why it matters
The experience of more than 1,000 students enrolled in more than 100 universities
How to Write a Motivation Letter to the University
  • 202705

How to Write a Motivation Letter to the University

There are 2 reasons why it is crucial to preapare a motivation letter carefully.

The first reason – this is your chance to stand out among equals and even stronger competitors. To be admitted to a foreign universities you must the best students from around the world. Your competitors' school scores and level of English are (if not higher than yours) definitely not less. You could have no time to retake English exam and change its score. A brilliant motivation letter will distinguish you among others.

The second reason – a motivation letter could minimize the disadvantages of the some components of your application. Perhaps, you have chosen a program that does not coincide with the previous education, you don't have relevant work experience or just lack a few GMAT points. Motivation letter helps to present this information and shift the focus on your strengths.

I. Read the Requirements to Motivational Letter

If requirements are not specified on the program website, register online to get an access to the University application form and find a description of the requirements in this system. Please note that you schould cover the required amount of words or characters and the questions. Check how many motivational essay are required to chosen University: the majority of programs of the first higher and graduate programs usually require only one motivation letter, but there are exceptions, for example: the University of Edinburgh normally required to submit two essays for its graduate programs.

Sample questions for motivation letter for the program MSc Management University of East Anglia in 2016: "The motivation essay should be about 500 words. Describe why You chose the program, how it relates to Your future career plans, Your experience, practice, volunteer activities, and other experience relevant to the program, what You hope to gain, after studying on the program."

II. Define the Structure of Your Motivation Letter

Think thoroughly about your paragraphs which will become part of your essay, how these topics are interrelated; don't forget to include an introduction and conclusion. Consider and what you will write in each paragraph of your motivational essay.

Below, we have the most simple structure of a motivation essay to University, successfully tested on the motivation letters of more than 100 Russian-speaking students, enrolled in foreign universities:

  1. Introduction.
  2. Connection between career goals and chosen program.
  3. Career plan: how described above goals will be achieved.
  4. What qualities, skills and knowledge are important for your career plan, and what do you need to develop?
  5. How the program, which you applying for, will help you to develop the appropriate qualities, skills and knowledge and achieve career goals indicated above.
  6. How could you be interesting/ useful for the University and fellow students.
  7. Conclusion.

If You are confident enough to write in English, it may be easier to write your motivation letter in Russian and then translate it into English.

III. Define Your Career Goals and Describe Them

Most foreign universities include in motivation letter questions, a question about student's future career. The older student or the higher level of education, the more specific and thoughtful should be a description of his career plan. What industry attracts you more and why? Are there companies for which you would like to work with and why? If you want to start up your own business, describe why you choose the entrepreneurial path, and what area you will work in.

Try to determine Your career goals for the next 2-4 years when applying for a bachelor's degree, 5-7 years for master's and MBA. Goals should be:
- Not simple, but realistic;
- Professional goals should be related to life goals;
- Specific, demonstrating your understanding of the industry, the area where you want to work;
- Aimed to improve not only your life and the your bank account, but also the lives of people around you, your society, country and perhaps the world in general.

Try to tie Your career and life goals. In the example below you will find the connection of career and life goals of a student from Moscow, entered the BSc program Biomedical Science at the London UCL: "I have always been interested in the nature of living things. Illnesses that befell my family members and some friends taught me that health is one of the most important things in life. Yet, most people get sick throughout their lives, and I have always seen being able to help find a cure for illnesses as a good purpose in life."

IV. What to Do if There Isn't a Career Plan Yet?

Whe  many students applying for an undergraduate program, there is no clear understanding what they will do and where after completion of high school. In this case you should describe the area which you see yourself in and tell the admissions Committee that by studying at their University you hope to make a more detailed career plan.

Below there is an example of career plan description of a student who hasn't chosen an exact profession, and applied for the BA program in Film Studies University of Reading: "I have not yet decided what type of career path in cinematography I should choose. I hope this course would help me gain a clearer understanding of the activities involved in the filmmaking process, so that I could make an informed decision regarding my career."

V. Tell about Your Qualities, Knowledge and Achievements

How and what to tell about yourself in the motivation letter may puzzle many applicants: we do not often write our own biography. However, this task can be very lightweight, if you will ude the following guidelines:

1. Determine what special qualities and knowledge are necessary for success in your chosen programme and your future career, and which of them you have. Describe these qualities, giving examples from study, work and life.

2. Determine what persona qualities you have will help you to succeed in your chosen path. Describe these advantages, providing examples from your academic, professional, public, sports etc. life.

3. If You have an interesting hobby or you are involved in activities that may be useful in your learning or help you become an valuable for the University, briefly describe them.

4. Inform about the qualities and knowledge that are necessary for success in your career you would like to develop while studying the program; universities often indicate these questions as "points of improvements".

5. Do not praise and do not understate yourself, but describe yourself as objectively as possible, citing facts, based on the opinion of others and, if possible, quoting him.

Examine the brochures and website of the selected University. University often reports about what qualities are required from the students and what criteria to meet.

The following is an example description of the personal qualities by a student from Moscow, applying for the program the MBA in the business school, University of Aston: "I enjoy challenges and the learning experience I can gain from them. At university, I learned to value quality knowledge and efforts needed to acquire it. Throughout my career I learned how to be a results-oriented manager and motivate others. I believe my most important quality in this respect is my ability to collaborate and communicate effectively. However, I believe that to implement my business ideas, I still need to learn more about organizations and entrepreneurship in global business."

If it is difficult to describe yourself, you can start listing your strongest personal qualities, knowledge, skills, hobbies and achievements, write them in a separate list to analyze them, and leave it 3-6 items, that mostly fit your suitability for the selected program. These are the qualities you will need to highlight in your motivation letter, recommendation letters and resume.

VI. Tell Us why You are Interested in this Program and University

Remember that the person who is evaluating your application, is likely to be an expert in the relevant subject area, and it will be important to see the proof of your sincere interest and understanding. A motivation letter for master degree program should demonstrate a deeper understanding of the subject than an essay for admission to a first degree. Samples of motivation letters in English and Russian.

VII. Put the Final Pieces Together

Following the structure of the essay, make the first version of your essay and modify it, making sure that all parts of your work logically relate to each other.

VIII. Check and Edit Motivation Letter

In the motivational letter thoughts need to be expressed clearly and simply. It is easy to achieve if you limit the length of the sentence as 12-20 words. Avoid as overly familiar and overly formal style. Write so the committee acn understand you easily. Make sure each sentence contains important information and there is no redundancy such as repetition of ideas or words. 

Some essays could start with a catchy quotes, others could contain jokes or  untypical layout. Sometimes it works, but it can have the opposite effect. Members of the selection Committee may not share your sense of humor and viewpoints, so be careful trying to make your essay too unusual.

Check grammar, spelling and punctuation. Essay, compiled with errors, creates a negative impression of the skills and efforts applied for admission.

It is impossible to rely entirely on the function of "spell Check" in your computer. Print a letter several times and read it carefully, trying to detect tricky inaccuracies or typographical errors.

Let people whose opinions you trust read your motivation letter. Make sure the text of your writing clear to readers.

Good luck!

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