Example Letter of Intent for Graduate School
A graduate school letter of intent sets the tone for your application. As such, you want to ensure you cover all the bases, from formatting to content. A sample letter of intent for graduate school could help get you started.
First, the basics. A graduate school letter of intent is, in essence, a cover letter for your application. It’s a formal letter that focuses on who you are, why you’re applying to that particular Master's or Doctoral program, and why that program should consider your application. However, there might be a few different ways to do this. You might focus your letter on specific achievements related to your application and goals. Or you could write in a more personal way, showing who you are and why you are committed to grad school. Whichever option you choose, it’s important to pay close attention to the style and mechanics of effective letter writing.
Letter of Intent Format
If you’ve ever written a business cover letter, the following information might seem a little familiar. That’s because the mechanics of writing a letter of interest are quite similar. In essence, a formal letter is comprised of a header, a salutation, the body, and the closing. Each of these needs to be present in your letter of intent and typically confined to a single printed page. Length requirements may vary, though, so make sure you’re familiar with the application requirements when you write.
The header should contain each of the following elements, separated by a line break.
- The sender’s full name, address, and contact information (phone and/or email)
- The date the letter is being sent
- The recipient’s name and address. (Note: It’s a good idea to personalize this as much as possible. If you can find out the name of the primary decision-maker who will be reading your application contents, address the letter to that person, unless instructed otherwise. If you can’t find this information, something more general like “Graduate Selection Committee” could be used instead.)
Here is an example letter of intent header:
Ms. Alice Henry
432 Bridge Street
March 3, 2017
Graduate Program Director
How to Write a Letter of Intent: Contents and Organization
The body of your letter of intent is where you could introduce yourself to the application committee and make your case for acceptance. You might take a few different approaches here, depending on your purpose in writing a letter of intent. While this could vary widely, most of the time it will alternate between two specific goals.
- Guiding the reader’s attention to specific elements of the application packet (i.e. certain accomplishments, experience, etc.)
- Personalizing the application, by giving the reader a more holistic view of who the applicant is and why they’re applying
Which one is appropriate for you depends, in many ways, on your background and the rest of your application. For example, if you’re applying with a stellar GPA, an impressive resume, and high test scores, you might not need that element of personalization to set you apart. Instead, it might be a good idea to emphasize your most impressive achievements.
In this case, the organization of your letter of intent body may be fairly straightforward, taking a note from business-oriented cover letters. For example, you might dedicate the first paragraph to the opportunity you’re pursuing. The second might be about your relevant skills and how you’ve demonstrated them. You could then end with your educational or career background related to your application.
But what if your CV is a little more average, or if you have struggled in the past? Then an alternate approach, like your personal story, might be a solid tactic. By giving an identity and context to your application, you could draw attention to who you are and your passion for your field.
In this case, how you organize the letter may vary widely, depending on what you’re trying to say and the story you have to tell. Often this could be chronological. But it might be a good idea to put some thought into how you’re planning to organize your letter. Then look back at your draft to make sure that strategy works.
Sample Letter of Intent for Graduate School
The following is an example letter of intent for graduate school, written by fictional school applicants. While your letter of interest should be entirely unique, this example may give you a few ideas to start. You can also use it as a letter of intent template to ensure you are following the correct format.
Example Letter of Intent
This writer chose to take a more personal approach with their content. So instead of organizing the paragraphs based on the type of achievement, they did it chronologically, telling the story behind why they want to study in that program.
Mr. Robert Smith
5 Main Street
February 11, 2017
University of Education
Graduate Program Director
Attn: Graduate Selection Committee
I am applying to your master’s program in elementary education for the Fall 2017 semester. After earning my undergraduate degree in elementary education from Teachers University, I worked for seven years as a fourth grade teacher ABC Elementary School in Anytown, Idaho.
I have wanted to be a teacher since third grade, inspired by my experience with my own teacher. As a student, I struggled to understand multiplication. I remember feeling frustrated, helpless, and sad. My teacher recognized my problem and spent months tutoring me in the subject after school. It took a lot of time and a great deal of patience on her part, but one day it clicked. Suddenly, I understood what I was doing. The joy and pride I felt was unmatched by any other moment in my preceding nine years.
I learned much more than multiplication during our study sessions. My teacher taught me to believe in myself. She taught me about the value of hard work, and the joy one experiences when helping others. Even at nine, I knew I wanted to share those lessons. For the past seven years, I have been fortunate enough to do so, with great success. Last year, I was selected from a pool of thirty teachers as the school’s “Most-Liked Teacher,” an award conferred by student opinion.
I have chosen to apply to the University of Education to pursue a master’s degree in elementary education because I am passionate about building upon the success and fulfillment I have already experienced as a teacher. My academic and career goals include exploring cutting-edge teaching techniques integrating the latest technology within my classroom. The University of Education’s reputation for excellence in developing new teaching technologies is the catalyst for my decision to attend graduate school in the first case. I am particularly interested in pursuing the New Teaching Models track, and I’m considering writing a thesis on the topic.
Thank you for your considering my application. It would be an honor to continue my studies and pursue my passion at the University of Education.
The Takeaways for Your Graduate School Letter of Intent
Hopefully the above sample letter of intent for graduate school helped you gain a clearer picture of what you need to write. Once you’ve finished, carefully review your draft for spelling errors, typos, grammar, and punctuation. It’s also important to ensure you have all the correct and complete information. Easy-to-miss details, like the wrong name of the recipient or school, could damage your chances of consideration. Check that these are correct, and that your main body content stays on-message. Finally, make sure your letter content is organized in a logical way for a reader.
Your letter of intent could be your first impression on the application committee. Follow these guidelines and use a sample letter of intent to make that impression count.
Personal Statements and Application Letters
The process of applying for jobs, internships, and graduate/professional programs often requires a personal statement or application letter. This type of writing asks writers to outline their strengths confidently and concisely, which can be challenging.
Though the requirements differ from application to application, the purpose of this type of writing is to represent your goals, experiences and qualifications in the best possible light, and to demonstrate your writing ability. Your personal statement or application letter introduces you to your potential employer or program director, so it is essential that you allow yourself enough time to craft a polished piece of writing.
1) PREPARE YOUR MATERIALS
Before you sit down to write, do some preparation in order to avoid frustration during the actual writing process. Obtain copies of documents such as transcripts, resumes and the application form itself; keeping them in front of you will make your job of writing much easier. Make a list of important information, in particular names and exact titles of former employers and supervisors, titles of jobs you have held, companies you have worked for, dates of appropriate work or volunteer experiences, the duties involved etc. In this way, you will be able to refer to these materials while writing in order to include as much specific detail as possible.
2) WRITE A FIRST DRAFT
After you have collected and reviewed these materials, it is time to start writing. The following is a list of concerns that writers should keep in mind when writing a personal statement/application letter.
Answer the Question: A major problem for all writers can be the issue of actually answering the question being asked. For example, an application might want you to discuss the reason you are applying to a particular program or company. If you spend your entire essay or letter detailing your qualifications with no mention of what attracted you to the company or department, your statement will probably not be successful. To avoid this problem, read the question or assignment carefully both as you prepare and again just prior to writing. Keep the question in front of you as you write, and refer to it often.
Consider The "I" Problem: This is a personal statement; using the first person pronoun "I" is acceptable. Writers often feel rather self-conscious about using first person excessively, either because they are modest or because they have learned to avoid first and second person ("you") in any type of formal writing. Yet in this type of writing using first person is essential because it makes your prose more lively. Using third person can result in a vague and overly wordy essay. While starting every sentence with "I" is not advisable, remember that you and your experiences are the subject of the essay.
Avoid Unnecessary Duplication: Sometimes a writer has a tendency to repeat information in his or her personal statement that is already included in other parts of the application packet (resume, transcript, application form, etc.). For example, it is not necessary to mention your exact GPA or specific grades and course titles in your personal statement or application letter. It is more efficient and more effective to simply mention academic progress briefly ("I was on the Dean's List"; or "I have taken numerous courses in the field of nutrition") and then move on to discuss appropriate work or volunteer experiences in more detail.
Make Your Statement Distinctive: Many writers want to make their personal statements unique or distinctive in some way as a means of distinguishing their application from the many others received by the company or program. One way to do this is to include at least one detailed example or anecdote that is specific to your own experience—perhaps a description of an important family member or personal moment that influenced your decision to pursue a particular career or degree. This strategy makes your statement distinctive and memorable.
Keep It Brief: Usually, personal statements are limited to 250–500 words or one typed page, so write concisely while still being detailed. Making sure that each paragraph is tightly focused on a single idea (one paragraph on the strengths of the program, one on your research experience, one on your extracurricular activities, etc.) helps keep the essay from becoming too long. Also, spending a little time working on word choice by utilizing a dictionary and a thesaurus and by including adjectives should result in less repetition and more precise writing.
Personal Statement Format
As mentioned before, the requirements for personal statements differ, but generally a personal statement includes certain information and can follow this format (see following model).
Many personal statements begin with a catchy opening, often the distinctive personal example mentioned earlier, as a way of gaining the reader’s attention. From there you can connect the example to the actual program/position for which you are applying. Mention the specific name of the program or company, as well as the title of the position or degree you are seeking, in the first paragraph.
- Detailed Supporting Paragraphs
Subsequent paragraphs should address any specific questions from the application, which might deal with the strengths of the program/position, your own qualifications, your compatibility with the program/position, your long-term goals or some combination thereof. Each paragraph should be focused and should have a topic sentence that informs the reader of the paragraph’s emphasis. You need to remember, however, that the examples from your experience must be relevant and should support your argument about your qualifications.
Tie together the various issues that you have raised in the essay, and reiterate your interest in this specific program or position. You might also mention how this job or degree is a step towards a long-term goal in a closing paragraph. An application letter contains many of the same elements as a personal statement, but it is presented in a business letter format and can sometimes be even shorter and more specific than a personal statement. An application letter may not contain the catchy opening of the personal statement but instead includes detailed information about the program or position and how you found out about it. Your application letter usually refers to your resume at some point. Another difference between a personal statement and an application letter is in the conclusion, which in an application letter asks for an interview.
3) REVISING THE PERSONAL STATEMENT/APPLICATION LETTER
Because this piece of writing is designed to either get you an interview or a place in a graduate school program, it is vital that you allow yourself enough time to revise your piece of writing thoroughly. This revision needs to occur on both the content level (did you address the question? is there enough detail?) and the sentence level (is the writing clear? are the mechanics and punctuation correct?). While tools such as spell-checks and grammar-checks are helpful during revision, they should not be used exclusively; you should read over your draft yourself and/or have others do so.
Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN