Seven Tips for a Stellar Letter of Motivation

The Letter of Motivation is one of the most important parts of your graduate school application. Unfortunately, it's also a part that is easy to overlook or minimize. If you want to make sure your application stands out, be sure to remember these seven tips for preparing a stellar letter of motivation for a German master's degree program.

1. Take your time and start early.

Your letter of motivation is not an afterthought that can be left to the last minute. The earlier you start, the more time you'll have to put together a thoughtful and well-written document. 

2. Your Letter of Motivation is not a cover letter.

One of the most common mistakes that students make when composing their Letter's of Motivation is thinking that this should be a summary of accomplishments. It's certainly important to include your accomplishments, but your Letter of Motivation is mainly an opportunity for the Admission's Committee to better get to know you. You're more than your resume; use this space to explain who you really are and why you're a good for the program.

3. Tailor your Letter of Motivation to each program that you apply to

Each academic program is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach to writing will only tell your readers that you aren't willing to invest the time to really understand what they have to offer. 

4. Your Letter of Motivation should answer a series of questions

  • Why do you want to pursue this degree? What about it in particular interests you?
  • What do you bring to the table? How will you be an asset to the program?
  • What are your professional goals, and how will studying in this program help you advance them?

Before you start writing, write down the questions that you feel you need to answer and brainstorm ideas. Avoid stream of consciousness style writing - it shows that you aren't capable of high-level academic work.

5. Choose an effective structure to express yourself

There are many approaches that you can use to effectively express yourself. Before you start writing, sit down and decide what works best for you. You may want to start off with a short background in order to communicate how you became interested in the program. Or you can start off with your goals, and use your vision of the future to explain how this program is a great fit for you. Either way, be sure that you have a plan of attack before you start writing.

6. Keep it formal

Slang, contractions, and idioms don't belong in academic writing, and they definitely shouldn't show up in your Letter of Motivation. If you're having trouble maintaining a formal tone, ask a friend to read through and highlight any colloquialisms - it's easy to go back through and sub them out for equivalent formal structures.

7. Measure twice, cut once

Before you submit anything, be sure to review it yourself multiple times and have at least two friends or colleagues take a pass as well. This document will have a significant influence of the success of your application, so it's key that you triple-check it for content, grammar, spelling, and punctuation before you hit send.