How to write a "letter of motivation", or cover letter
"Letter of motivation" seems to be a literal translation of the French "lettre de motivation". In the English-speaking world, the document is called a cover letter. Remember that it is a letter, so the layout must be correct:
Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing a cover letter.
• A "letter of motivation" or cover letter (CL) is your opportunity to "sell" yourself, i.e. convince the institution or company that they need to have you. Do not be modest: when applying for a job, explain clearly why you think you are suited for the position.
• The goal of a CL is to provide a picture of your background and goals that will persuade the admission committee to accept you.
• Recruiters expect you to show that what you have matches what they want. Remember, this is a question of interpretation, and the secret of writing a good CL lies in using your qualifications and experience to show that you are the best person for the position. (This means, of course, that you need to modify your CL for each position you are applying for. The same goes for your CV, of course.)
• Beyond the particular skills required by each program, a CL should show you to be a clear-headed person, capable of thinking clearly, and a motivated, active learner. Write in a clear and logical manner: remember, the way you write and present yourself says a lot about you.
• Before writing the first draft, take some time to think about yourself, your goals and your skills. Think about your background, what and where you have studied, and how all that makes you suitable for the program/position. Put this in to the first part of the CL.
• Continue in the second section with your professional goals, explaining the connection between them and your studies. Present your long-term plans, and say how the program you are applying for will help you achieve those goals. Make clear why your background makes you suitable for the program, and how the program will help you achieve your long-term goals. In this section also explain why precisely that university etc. is your choice – the courses, faculty, research interests are possible reasons. In conclusion, state how you can contribute to the program.
• You need to take time. Expect to revise your letter up to 10 times (no exaggeration!) before you come up with a good CL. One strategy is, let it rest after you have written a new draft for a few days, and read it again, in order to get a more objective view. And have it checked by as many other people as possible! To do this, of course, means you must start the process early.
• And don't just copy what you have said in the other documents that you submit, but try to add to them. Answer the essay/statement question, if you have one - it usually will be something like "Why are you the right person for this program?".
Writing the motivation letter is an important step in the application procedure - it is the basis on which the organising groups select their participants! There's no are perfect templates or instructions on how to write your motivation letter for a BEST courses - every student is unique, and this should be reflected in this letter! However, there are some general tips and hints that might be useful, and might help you in getting accepted more easily!
First of all - when writing a motivation letter, do keep in mind that it is going to be read by students, just like you. They get many applications from which they have to choose - and the only tool they have to choose is the student's motivation letters. It might be that the organisers have to read a few hundred motivation letters, so to attract their attention, try to be creative and funny.
So do not write a formal letter, do not start it with "Dear Madam or Sir", and importantly, do not make it look like a CV - do not state all the schools you visited, all the jobs you did during your life, etc.. write an interesting letter in prose style!
In general, your motivation letter should focus on the following parts:
• Something about yourself - what you study, what you do in your life , what are your hobbies, sports you do, maybe what languages you speak...
BEST courses are always a lot of fun, so the organisers should know that you are a funny person!
• Why you want to go to abroad, and why do you want to go to a BEST summer/winter/spring course!
It is important for the organisers to have internationally minded, open persons - the course does not consist only of the academic program!
• Why you want to go to especially THIS event you're applying for: why is the topic attractive, why might the knowledge you can gain there help you (in your studies, in your future carreer...) - the event does neither consist of only the social part, so let the organisers know that you are interested in the course as well!!!
• Sometimes, it is needed to tell the organisers that you have a sufficient knowledge of the topic - so let them know that and how you do! To find out what is expected - read the course information on the webpages carefully, as probably there are some hints telling you which kind of participant are expected to apply!
• Be careful, and send the appropriate letter to the appropriate place (don't mix them if you apply to more than one course!)
• Don't let the letter be too short or too long – One, or half of an A4 page, is just enough to get the organisers to notice you. If the letter is too long, they might not want to read it, but if it's too short, they will think that you are not interested enough in the course!
• Of course, the letter has to be written in English
These are just some general hints - take the ones you want, leave the ones you don't like, but in any case, add your own imagination and style, be creative, and you'll have your motivation letter to go on a BEST course!