Motivation Letter for Study Abroad

Writing a Powerful Motivation Letter For Study Abroad

Are you looking to study in another country?  Perhaps you want to be part of a program that will take your career opportunities to new heights.  When you submit your application, one strategy to improve your chances is to submit a motivation letter for study abroad.  A motivation letter is a letter written to tell a review board or other decision-maker what a great candidate you would make for their program.

Review boards for study abroad programs are looking for great candidates but to do that they have to review thousands of applications.  You need to do everything that you can to stand out in that group.  You may only have a few seconds to do that.  One of the surest ways not to stand out it to submit the same application as everyone else.  Many applications will have the chance to submit a letter with them.  Whenever this is an option, you need to do it.

If you are writing multiple letters to different programs, don’t make the mistake of using the same letter for every program.  Of course, you can use some of the same material but you don’t want to use exactly the same letter.  Just like with a generic address, a generic letter feels like a generic letter.  Go through the process below for every application.  Don’t worry, it will get quicker each time you do it.

This motivation letter to study abroad is your chance to stand out from the crowd and highlight to a reviewer what a great candidate you would make.  You can highlight your skills, knowledge, and experience to show them how much you can contribute to their program and your fellow students.  You can show them how hard you will work. You can show them how much the opportunity to study abroad in their program will mean to you, your future, and how it will let you contribute to a brighter world.  It sounds like a tough job, but with a little care and consideration, you can do it.


The Components of a Motivation Letter for Study Abroad

Your motivation letter should be no more than one page.  Most readers just aren’t going to read that.  A good structure to follow is

  • Address – When possible, you want to address your letter to a person.  That might be the director of admissions, the head of the review board.  Usually, with a few minutes of research, you can find a name and title.  Using a generic address like “to whom it may concern” can make a letter feel generic.  Sometimes, that’s unavoidable, but you want to try to address the letter to an official in the application process.
  • Introduction – Introduce yourself and why you’re writing.  This can be as simple as a few sentences.  Use the name of the program and express your excitement about the opportunity.
  • Body – In the body of the motivation letter, which is usually about three paragraphs, you want to try to demonstrate why you are a great candidate for the program.  Some examples of ways that you can stand out as an application:
    • Your Past Academic Career – If you have successfully completed similar programs, especially with great grades or achievements, that can show how well you are likely to do in this program.
    • Past Achievements – Past non-profit achievements, awards, and accomplishments can be a great way to show that you are likely to succeed in the program and do great things.
    • Work History – Perhaps you had some wonderful career accomplishments or positions, especially if they were related to your program.  These can show not just that you can learn the material but that you are willing to apply it and can do so.
    • Career Aspirations – Everyone loves someone with big dreams, especially when they think that they can achieve them.
    • Why This Country and Not One in Your Country – Consider highlighting why you want to study abroad versus the same or similar program in your own country.  Perhaps the culture is enticing or the institution is top in its discipline.  Maybe you met someone from that institution who was able to inspire you.
  • Conclusion – Close out your letter with a few sentences summarizing your candidacy and highlighting next steps.

This may sound like a lot, but it’s a simple structure that can be easy to write.  Let’s talk about how.

Preparing to Write Your Motivation Letter

As part of preparing to write your motivation letter for study abroad, you want to consider what kind of applicant the program might be looking for.  The good news is that you have several sources available to you.  You’ll want to look at what kind of students they look for, who they accept, and who completes their program.

After that, you need to think about how you meet those qualifications.  Think about your academic, personal, and work achievements and what that has done to prepare you for this program.  Sometimes, things that are a bit different from other applicants will help you stand out, so don’t think that you need to be like everyone else to be accepted.  They need a lot of different candidates.

Review What They’re Looking For

The first step is to consider what they’re looking for.  Some of these things will be obvious and will meet just with your application.  Other things are more difficult or, if you don’t quite meet it, you’ll need to convince them that you do.

As you review different material and find qualifications, write them down.

You have several sources to review what they’re looking for:

  • Program Description – Read through the description of the program. Make a note of any qualifications in the description.
  • Application – Sometimes, the application will have different requirements that you must meet.  Some will be simple, but others will be open to your interpretation.  Write these down.

Once you have the qualifications, it’s time to take a look at what experience other applicants have.  This can require a little bit of detective work but you may have a few sources at your disposal.

Research Other Applicants and Graduates

Go through sources like LinkedIn, Facebook and Google and find any current or past students of your program.  This may be difficult to find but do your best. You might even know some students in the program.  Read through their biographies and backgrounds and make a note of any experience that they had going into the program that might have made them stand out.  This gives you an idea of what qualifications and experience the program is looking for.

There are some directories online of programs that have information and review that can help you learn more about current students, what the program values, and more.

Write down any awards, accomplishments or other experiences that you have which aren’t in your list above.

Lastly, read through your CV, past accomplishments, job history and just your personal story and see if there is anything else that’s interesting or exciting.  This is where our list above comes in. These might not be things that you found in your research. Hopefully, you have work, education, or volunteer activities that are different from others.  These are things you can tell a story about or that create a motivating story in your letter.  These are accomplishments that can really make a review board remember you.  That’s what you’re looking for.  These other activities are to help give you ideas.

Using Your List

Take your list and then write down what qualifications or experience that you have that meets the requirements or that might make you stand out like some of the other students that you looked at.  Hopefully, you will have a long list.  That might feel like it makes your job a bit harder because you’ll need to trim down a long list.  The good news is that this gives you a lot more to work with when you write your motivation letter.

Read through your list.  If there are any qualifications that are obvious or that everyone will meet, then remove them from your list.  For example, if it’s a graduate program and requires a bachelor’s degree, then there is no need to highlight that.  Your goal is to stand out.  You want to find those things on your list that are exciting, interesting or memorable.

Writing Your Motivation Letter

Now that you have your list, it’s finally time to start writing.

The first thing to write is your introduction.  This is usually pretty simple.  Introduce yourself and why you are writing.  “My name is Jane Smith and I’m currently a student in Oxford University. I am excited to submit my application for your study abroad program in international journalism.  I’ve dreamed about this opportunity for years.” Show them that you are excited.

Now comes the more difficult part.  The body of your letter.  Start by taking the list that we made above.  Use them to write the body of your letter.  Tell them why you would make a great candidate.  Tell a short story of an amazing experience or show off how hard you have worked.  Maybe tell a story about how your family history ties back to the country abroad.

Finally, write your conclusion.  Take one or two sentences wrapping up how you are an outstanding candidate.  Be confident but not pompous.  Be respectful.  It’s a difficult balance to strike, but if you make affirmative statements about yourself (never anything bad about others) and how excited you are then you should be okay.  Then you want to close with the next steps.  Again make a strong statement.  “I look forward to discussing with you more how I can be a strong student in your program and am available any time to discuss it.”

There you go, you have a letter.

Asking Someone Else for a Motivation Letter for Study Abroad

With many programs, maybe even most, you will have to get letters of recommendation.  These serve the same purpose as your motivation letter.  A big difference is that you do not get to decide what is written, so you need to control things are much as possible.  There is nothing worse than a letter of recommendation that makes you look worse.  If they have to submit the letter to the program, then you may never even know that it was the letter that hurt you.  Here are some tips to make this process go better for you.

  • Choose the Right People – When you pick someone to write your letter of recommendation, make sure that they are someone that can give you a good recommendation.  That’s not the only part of picking someone, though.  Make sure you pick someone who you think is likely to take the time to write you a good recommendation.
  • Ask More People – Don’t just ask the number of people that you need.  Often, recommendations won’t come back in time, or at all.  You want to ask extra people.  Too many recommendations will not hurt you.  Worst case, the extras will be ignored. If you don’t have enough recommendations, you may not get into the program at all.
  • Help Them Say What You Want – You have done this work, now is a good time to use.  When you ask the person for a recommendation, you can tell them what the program is looking for and how you think you meet it.  Don’t share them a whole letter but a few talking points.  You might consider asking the person if they want you to provide that to them or you could include it in your request to help them.  The truth is that most people will take the easy way out when they have a chance, so they’re likely to use what you give them.  If this is a person that you have a special relationship with, point that out. Maybe they are the head of the charity you discussed in your motivation letter.  Let them know what you said and how you used your background.
  • Make it Even Easier for Them  – Another way to make it easier for them is to tell them exactly how to submit their letter.  Provide them the name, email address, physical address or whatever other information you have.  Help make it as easy as possible to submit the recommendation.  That way, they’re more likely to do it.
  • Check-In – Give them some time, but a week or so before it is due, check with them to see if they have submitted it.  Make sure to ask in time so that they can still complete it in time.

Making things easier for someone writing a recommendation for you will help improve your chance both that they submit the letter and that it’s the letter you’re looking for.

Writing  a Motivation Letter for Someone Else

Sometimes, you may be asked to write a motivation letter for study abroad for someone else, a letter of recommendation.  These same tips apply to how to write it.  You can use the same structure and the same process for figuring out what the write. The good news is that you can make the candidate do some of the work.  In your conclusion, it’s a good idea to provide how they can contact you and your willingness to be contacted.  The good news is that most programs will never contact you, but if they do, then you might make the difference of getting someone into a great opportunity.  You could really make a difference in someone’s future.

When you are asked to write a motivation letter for someone else who wants to study abroad, ask them about the program.  Ask them to send you a list or description of why they are a good candidate.  Take the things that you agree with and use that in the body of your letter.

That way, you can pass some of the work off onto them and you are more likely to submit a letter that helps them. Don’t lie, though.  Of course, you want to highlight their strengths, but if you don’t believe what they said, then don’t use that information in your letter. You don’t need to tell them that, but you don’t want to be dishonest in your letter.

One last recommendation, though.  If you can’t write a good recommendation, then you probably shouldn’t write one at all.  It’s not fair or nice to the candidate. Better to be honest with them.  You might be called or otherwise contacted and your lack of enthusiasm could show and you could hurt their chances.  Maybe more importantly, it’s just dishonest.

Motivation Letter For Study Abroad Sample

Motivation Letter For Study Abroad Sample

Other Resources

What is a motivation letter?

Why a motivation letter is important?

Motivation Letters for Education

Motivation Letters for Foreign Travel

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