It is very common nowadays that European universities that offer different international Master’s degree programmes ask applicants to send a number of important documents like: CV, transcript of records, Bachelor's degree diploma, language certificate, etc.
Still, one of the key documents required, that might make the difference and assure you a place in your desired Master’s programme, is the motivation letter.
The motivation letter (or cover letter) is probably the most personalised document of your application, considering that you actually get the chance to write a presentation about yourself.
By requiring a motivation letter, the Master's recruiting committee offers you the chance to prove yourself with a short document in the form of a letter in which you are supposed to give some relevant and interesting insights about yourself, and prove that you are the right and most motivated person to be chosen for the programme.
Writing such a letter can prove to be sometimes tricky and challenging for some applicants, who often find themselves wondering how the letter should look like, what it should contain, and how to convince coordinators that they are the right ones to be chosen for the programme.
The internet is packed with different websites that offer tips and tricks on such letters. By simply typing ‘motivation letter’ on any of the consecrated search engines, you will find a vast number of examples of different motivation letters with structural and content details.
This article will focus on a few key points drawn from personal experiences, that proved effective in my case, and will hopefully be useful in helping you write a good cover letter:
Do your homework!
Before starting on your motivation letter, it is best you find out as much as possible about the university that is offering the Master’s programme and about the programme itself. Usually, the universities' website is pretty clear and informative about its requirements, expectations and about what qualifications and qualities they hope their candidates have.
Knowing a little bit about their requirements, about their main projects, activities, personal philosophy and interests will help you get an idea of what your letter should contain. Relating to the main activities and interests of the university will definitely help start a positive cooperation.
To get the perfect motivation letter, you will also need to have great English writing skills. If you need to improve your English speaking, why not try taking a good English language course abroad?
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).
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.
Be professional and consistent
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!
Present your letter in a professional format, style, and grammar (e.g. use the same font, the same abbreviations throughout the letter, etc.). Check for any mistakes you can find. You can also ask your friends to have a look and see if you've missed anything. This step is very important because small details make the difference.
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.
However, as we mentioned before, always remember to be original and avoid copying other letters!
All these key points can prove effective in helping you write a successful motivation letter, but, in the end, your personal touch and knowledge is what matters and makes the difference.
A good motivation letter will always be successful if the applicant is really interested and willing to get the desired place in the Master's programme of his/her choice. What you really need is to trust yourself and try it. And, if you are not successful the first time, keep on trying, because you will make it!
Here are a few examples of successful motivation letters:
- Motivation letter for a Biomedical Engineering degree
- Motivation letter for a Tourism and Entrepreneurship degree
- Motivation letter for a Computer Science degree
- Motivation letter for an Information Systems degree
- Motivation letter for an Advanced Optical Technology degree
- Motivation letter for an International MBA
- Motivation letter for a Food Safety degree
- Motivation letter for a History and Oriental Studies degree
- Motivation letter for a Political Science degree
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