Getting into a university can be very competitive. With acceptance rates often below 50% and sometimes in the single digits, you need to do everything that you can to stand out. One great strategy is to write a motivation letter for university admissions.
A motivation letter is a letter that you include with your university application to highlight why you would make a great candidate. It helps you to stand out to a review board or admissions officer. It gives you a chance to show them why they should choose you.
Most applicants won’t submit a letter so a motivation letter for your university can really help you stand out from other applicants. It needs to be organized, well written, and show why you are a great candidate for their program.
Let’s look at what you can do to write a great motivation letter for your university application.
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Getting Started on Your Motivation Letter for a University
Gather the Requirements of Your Program
Before you write your letter, take a piece of blank paper. Create two columns. Then, draw a line across the middle so that you have four quadrants. On the top left, write down what they are looking for in a candidate. Here are some sources to consider:
- Program Requirements – Look at the requirements of what they are looking for in candidates.
- Existing Candidates – If you know any current attendees, look at their LinkedIn profiles, any online descriptions, or any other data sources and write down some of their qualifications.
- Past Graduates – Look at past graduates using their online biographies and social media profiles and write down their qualifications.
Make sure that you only have one entry per qualification. We’re trying to get an understanding of what they are looking for in candidates and applicants.
Where Do You Shine?
In the other top column, write down how you meet any of the qualifications. With a list this long, you probably won’t meet all of the qualifications. That’s okay. Just write down any ways that you would be a great candidate for the program. For now, just notes are fine.
Why Should The School Choose You? Why Do You Want to Be There?
It’s not all about qualifications. Think about why you want this program. What excites you? What is interesting to you?
Write down anything in your background or experience that answers these questions. You want to write down you want to be part of the program. Think about how you could benefit from the program, bring extra experience, or anything else.
Something else that can sometimes be very motivational in a letter to a university is your career aspirations. This is especially true if they are unique or motivational. Be honest. Don’t make something up or a good admissions officer could see through your story and it could hurt your chances of getting in.
If you have an amazing goal for your career, this could be a good thing to include. This is especially true if it’s part of a heartfelt story. “My ultimate goal is to get my doctorate and become a cancer researcher. My mom died of breast cancer and while science has come a long way, I want to contribute to the science to find cures or treatments for cancer so that another little boy doesn’t have to lose his mom. That was the saddest day of my life and it’s my dream to prevent another child from having a day like that.”
These kinds of stories show something personal about you. They make you memorable to an admissions officer. Once, when I was submitting an application, they asked about our “shining star” moment where we did something that made a difference. I submitted a simple, true, and heartfelt story about a time that I held an elderly woman’s hand while she was scared while we took her to the hospital. I was working on an ambulance at the time and it made her feel more comfortable for the brief time we were together. I held her hand and I comforted her, frankly, on what was probably her last trip from home. I heard about that story for years from the manager who reviewed it. It stuck with him long after I was hired.
A good story can have that much impact.
Writing a Motivation Letter for University, School, or College
A good motivational letter to a university follows a very simple format. Sadly, that doesn’t make it easy to write.
- One page – keep it to one page. Review boards and admissions officers are busy. You won’t get much of their attention, make it count.
- Three parts
- Introduction – introduce yourself, use your name and the name of the university. If it’s appropriate, use the name of the program. “My name is Yukiko Watanabe and I’m proud to submit my application to Oxford University. It has long been a dream of mine to go to Oxford.” A good introduction can be that simple.
- Body – The body is the main part of your motivation letter. It will contain some of the information that we put together before. Usually, three paragraphs is a good goal. These should be decent paragraphs that are easy to read.
- Conclusion – Summarize things, thank them for their time and offer to speak to them more if they have questions or anything else you can do to improve your chances.
This format of a motivational letter for a university admission sounds easy right?
The introduction is pretty straightforward. To write the body, though, look through your notes from before and pick out the things that really make you stand out.
If you have a weak application, then some amazing story from your past can help. This could be a great accomplishment, a unique challenge, or something similar.
You could provide them with your academic background, but remember that they already have it so unless there’s something really great there, you might want to look for other opportunities. You could use each of your paragraphs to highlight different aspects of your academic or personal career.
If in doubt, it’s okay to write more initially and then go back and edit it. Sometimes, it’s easiest to start with the body and then move on to the introduction and the conclusion. This might give you a really powerful sentence or two in your introduction to tell the reader to get ready for you to wow them.
This is your chance to show an admissions officer why you should be the next student at their school. Use this chance wisely and take a careful look at all of your accomplishments and qualifications and find the most powerful and interesting.
Differences in Motivation Letters for Education
Depending on the level and type of program you are applying for, you will need to tailor this strategy a bit. Undergraduate programs are different from graduate programs. If you are applying for medical school, you will want to focus on different things than for a research position like a post-doc program.
The approach is the same. You want to start with what the program is looking for and how you can best shine in those areas. What they are looking for is different.
How Do I Write a Motivation Letter for a Bachelor’s Degree?
For a motivation letter for a bachelor’s degree, you won’t have any university coursework to show so you need to demonstrate why you are a great candidate using other means. Your grades are certainly a big part of that. Of course, schools often want to see more.
You will want to include any programs, volunteer activities, or jobs that you have held. Add any accomplishments, awards, or unique projects that you participated in.
How Do I Write a Motivation Letter for a Master’s Degree?
For a master’s degree, you want to show that you can do the advanced work necessary for a graduate program. This might involve being able to write a thesis, participate in complicated group work or do more advanced levels of thinking, and the advanced project work in a master’s program.
Often, grades alone aren’t enough for this, plus they already have those. You want to show that you can do this advanced work so you want to consider adding work experience in big projects, unique work, publications, or anything that you have done that shows that you can do this sort of work.
How Do I Write a Motivation Letter for a Scholarship?
While it’s similar, we have a whole discussion on how to write a motivation letter for scholarship applications.
Motivation Letter for University Admissions – Dos and Don’ts
Here are a few things to consider before you submit your letter. Write your letter first and then go through these.
- Check Your Spelling and Grammar – You are applying for an academic position. They are likely academic professionals with strong spelling and grammar skills. Remember those admission rates? They are often looking for reasons to say no. A student who can’t spell can give them that reason. If you aren’t a strong speller then use spell check and then have someone read it for you and help you edit it. We recommend using a tool like Grammarly. Grammarly has a great free tool that often does better than spell checkers. It can tell the difference between words like “to” and “too”. Grammarly’s paid tool is even better, helping with things like tone and readability.
- One letter per application – Of course, you are likely to apply for more than one university or program. There is nothing wrong with that. Do not reuse the same letter for all of them. Do this whole process each time. Each university is different. If you write a form letter it will read like a form letter.
- Don’t Be Humorous – You’re not a comedian (unless you are) so don’t try to be one. It’s okay to have a humorous story but you want the tone to be appropriate and making jokes or treating it lightly can give the impression that you don’t care.
- Be Respectful and Appreciative– You are writing to people who can have an impact on the direction of your life. Treat them that way. Be respectful and appreciative of their time.
These may sound difficult but they really aren’t. For some, spelling is a challenge but you can work around that. There are tools to help you.
A Good Motivation Letter Can Make a Difference in Your University Application
A good motivation letter can really help you stand out in a sea of other applicants. This is a chance to move ahead in the line. Telling them why they should choose you can help them do that. You want to stand out and show your enthusiasm for the opportunity. You want them proud that they picked you for their school.
Probably the best resource we have found for such help is to look on Fiverr to hire someone. Fiverr is a marketplace where you can hire someone for a specific project. They offer different projects at set prices that you can hire them for. This link will take you to a search for freelancers that do motivation letters specifically. We can’t offer any specific names on there because the freelancers change. We can give you some pointers on finding the right person for you, though.
Make sure to review their projects and their reviews. Some might offer letters specifically for MBAs or education applications. Others might just do motivation letters. That’s probably okay. If you’re not sure, you can contact them and discuss it with them before hiring them. Here are the things to look for if you contact them (which isn’t a bad idea even if you think they’re great).
- Responsive – Make sure that they respond in a reasonable amount of time. If they don’t respond quickly when they want your business they won’t be quick when they have it.
- Communication – You’re asking them to write a letter for you to a graduate program. Asking them questions in writing is a good chance to see the quality of their writing.
- Check All Their Deals – When you look at their offerings, there are usually multiple tiers of offerings. Pay more, get more, or get it more quickly (or both.) Don’t always go for the cheapest. Sometimes, the more expensive deals can help you more.
- Read Their Reviews – Read through the reviews and look for patterns. Anyone can have an occasional bad review but if you need a letter in a few days and they have a lot of complaints about timing, they probably aren’t the freelancer for you.
The good news is that these are writers who do this a lot and have seen a number of ways to do it. Often Fiverr offers reasonable deals at reasonable prices for projects like this. Just like anything else, you just need to make sure you hire the person for you.
While we can’t recommend a specific freelancer, please make sure you leave a review, especially if you find someone really good or really bad. That way, other readers can find the right freelancer when they need them. If we all leave reviews, then we can find the best people together to help us out.
Sample Motivation Letter for University (School & College) Admission
When you write your motivation letter for university admissions, you can use the sample below to get started. Use this as a guide, but don’t copy it. You need to write your own letter. Ours is provided simply to get your thoughts going. These same tips, and this sample, aren’t just good for a university application. You can also use them for any school or college application.