Motivation Letter – How to Write, Format & Samples

How to Write a Motivation Letter

Most foreign universities and even some in India require applicants to write a motivation letter as a part of their application process. This letter, if well written, has a lot of significance, and can ensure admission into your desired program. Apart from educational purposes, there is also a requirement for a motivation letter when you are applying for a certain position at a particular organization, be it for a job, an internship or for volunteering. But before coming to how to write a motivation letter, let us first understand what exactly it is and why it is so important in deciding the status of your application.

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What is a motivation letter?

It is a one-page long letter used to make a point about what makes you a perfect candidate for a certain position in a university or an organization. You will usually be asked to attach this document with your resume. Generally, a motivation letter is written in four specific scenarios listed below:

1. When you wish to apply for an educational program at a university.

2. When you are looking to apply at a non-profit organization (NGO).

3. When you want to work as a volunteer in an organization.

4. When you are seeking an internship in a company.

You must not confuse a motivation letter with a cover letter, whose purpose is to speak about specific information in your resume matching the job opening. A motivation letter should be rather seen as a strong closing pitch to your application, encompassing your resume, your achievement certificates, all documents related to your credentials and your cover letter.

One may wonder why this letter holds so much importance despite there being a well-informed resume.  The answer to that is, all organizations and universities are looking to filter through hundreds of applications to choose individuals with true passion that cannot be judged through a resume or a mark sheet. They want to finalise on people with real intent and excitement for the position.

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What’s the difference between a motivation letter, statement of purpose (SOP), cover letter and personal statement?

An application process to study abroad involves presenting multiple documents for universities posing unique requirements. With this being the case, it is natural to get confused between the various types and formats of documents that you need to prepare for submission. Here we have briefly explained what motivation letter, statement of purpose, cover letter, and a personal letter are and how you can differentiate between them.

1. Motivation Letter

This letter is written by applicants wishing to be considered for a particular position at an institution or organization outlining why they are a perfect fit and what their true intent is behind applying. This may be written while applying for an educational program at an undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate level as well as while applying to seek work at a non-profit organization as a volunteer or an intern.

2. Statement of Purpose (SOP)

A statement of purpose is an essay highlighting your interests in the respective academic field, your experiences as a scholar and your intentions of contributing to the field after graduation.

3. Cover Letter

A cover letter urges the reader to consider your resume that you enclose in your application. It is meant to speak of your competence and how the skill set you possess is apt for the position you are applying for.

4. Personal Statement

While a motivation letter and a personal statement may seem similar, there is a basic difference. A motivation letter speaks about your passion for the program you are applying for and how it will help you achieve your professional goals. Whereas a personal statement speaks promptly about how you are a perfect fit for the position.

You must take into account these differences and avoid sending one in the place of another at all costs because that might lead to the rejection of your application.

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Important tips to consider before writing a motivational letter

1. Do your homework about the organization/institution concerned

Allot a decent amount of time to find out as much as you can about the university or company you are writing the motivation letter to. This is going to give you valuable insight about their vision and what they look for in their candidates. You may also include some of the information you gather wisely in your letter.

2. Set a personal tone to the letter

This is one document in your application where you are allowed to be informal, use it to your advantage and pen down your passion for the position and let the text reflect your personality and personal style.

3. A direct and concise style of writing is the key

It is absolutely clear from the name that you are required to show your motivation in this letter. Get straight to the point and avoid rambling. Ensure that the document is no longer than an A-4 size page. Highlight only your strong points and other attractive qualities that may compel the recruiter to invite you for an interview.

4. Remember its purpose

Keep in mind that you already have a CV/resume that furnishes all personal and professional information. You do not need to run through all of them in your motivation letter, rather use the opportunity of an informal letter to talk about things that aren’t listed in a CV. Remember that the CV and the motivation letter are complementary to each other and should be in sync with one another in terms of the information you provide about yourself.

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5. Stay politically correct and overall polite

You must, at all costs, avoid writing about anything that may cause offence or make you appear arrogant. Use polite language in the letter. There is no point in coming off as a know-it-all or a show-off. At the same time, underestimating yourself isn’t the way either.

6. Use the power of persuasion

Clearly explain what your motivation is and why you are a perfect fit for the position. Mention what puts you ahead of your competition and how you will add positive enhancement to the program. Read about the qualities sought by the recruiter and write about how they correspond to you. Highlight all your achievements and all that you are proud of without sounding arrogant.

7. Avoid set phrases and clichés

It isn’t enough to just praise yourself randomly, support what you say, provide examples of your achievements and try not to use run-of-the-mill phrases such as “quick to learn” or “super organized”. Being original will take you a long way.

8. Know who to address:

Probably one of the most important tip, figure out all details about who you are meant to address the letter to, their name, designation, and department.

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How to write your motivation letter for study abroad

Universities abroad often have specific things they are looking for when asking you to write a motivation letter. It is indeed a challenging task to write one, where you may end up being either too formal, missing out on the chance to be creative or being too candid and failing to highlight important aspects of your personality. Additionally, there is extra pressure on students trying to compose a letter for an international audience.

However, there are some common characteristics that international admission offices look for in their candidates. You should be able to structure an impactful motivation letter if you simply include answers to these following questions:

1. Why you want to study abroad

While the answer may seem obvious to you, you need to make a valid argument to the admissions officers. Avoid saying that you wish to leave your country, you are doing it because your peers have done it or because you want to have an international degree to show off. Instead write about how you are interested in their culture and heritage, how you have always had a flair for communication and wish to be a part of a global student community or how you can contribute to a particular industry with a specific foreign degree.

2. Whether you have any previous international exposure

Universities seek candidates who have an experience of being far away from home. So, instead of bluntly stating that you have never lived abroad or that you have had bad experiences abroad, say that you are adaptable and have done enough research on the country to know that you will be able to settle there. Mention how you love travel and new experiences and are keen on expanding your horizons.

3. Why your personality is a match for an international education

Give examples of why you are meant to be a part of a global community and how much importance you give to social inclusivity and cultural sensitivity. Avoid mentioning if you are an extremely social or intensely reserved person, instead write about your ability to fit into groups and your appreciation of various cultures.

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Example of a Motivation Letter 

Writing the perfect motivation letter can be a hard task, but if you know how to structure yours, it will be very easy for you to impress whoever is reading your motivation letter. A perfectly structured motivation letter can be written in two styles-

– The classic three-paragraph style with an introduction, body, and conclusion. 

– The 5 to 7 paragraph style where the content of the main body is divided into multiple paragraphs.

The motivation letter should have a storytelling approach and not sound too mechanical and cliched. Try to decide on a particular series of arguments and stick to that without breaking the flow of the story.

Your pitch should be engaging so that the reader is hooked right from the introduction. Keep your letter brief but not too harsh around the edges. Express your achievements, interests, skills and experience, goals, and objectives without writing pages and pages.

There are specific things you need to mention when writing a motivation letter for a bachelor’s degree and a motivation letter for a master’s degree. You will find numerous samples online but choose to use one for reference that is the most relevant to your field.  Here we have attached one such example for you to refer to:

Sample motivation letter for master’s degree

When you are applying for a master’s program, it is expected that you have already gained a sizable experience and knowledge about your field of choice from your graduate program. So, when you sit to compose a motivation letter for a master’s degree, mention all that your graduate level education has taught you, how you have been inspired by it and why you have chosen the specialization that you have.

Find below an example of a motivation letter for masters:

From,

[Name of applicant,

Address,

Contact Details]

Date………………………..

To,

[Name of Recipient,

Designation/Department,

Name of Institution/Organization,

Address,

Contact Details]

Subject- ………………………………………………………………………………..

Respected Sir/Madam,

Here’s hoping that this letter reaches you in good spirit.

I am [Name of Candidate] and I would like to take this opportunity to state how truly passionate I am in pursuing my higher education from a university with such a grand heritage. The reputation of a master’s program in science from your university is world renowned and I shall be honored to be considered for a place in the program.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and my strong grades along with the complex projects I have undertaken make me a good candidate for your program. I have always dreamt of making impactful changes in the field of civil engineering and I had determined to make it my career early on in my undergraduate years.

I have also had the opportunity to intern with [Name of Company] and that has instilled in me great appreciation for the subject and taught me valuable skills required in the industry. Additionally, I have finished a course in Computed Aided Design from [Name of Organization] which I know will give me an edge while studying the subject at a master’s level.

With this, I would like to close my Letter of Motivation and earnestly hope that my resume and the deep desire that I must pursue M.S. from your university will help in securing a position in the upcoming academic session starting on ………………….

Warm Regards

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Sample motivation letter for bachelor’s degree

When you are applying for an undergraduate course, your motivation letter will be slightly different than the one above. You should mention all that you achieved in your high school, the subjects you studied, what triggered your interest in the program you are applying for and how you wish to incorporate what you learn at university in your future. You may mention incident(s) about when you first realized you wanted to study a specific field and why you chose to apply to a specific university. Write candidly about your passion for the subject and discuss your plans for your career post-graduation.

Below you will find an example of a motivation letter for bachelor’s degree that you may refer to:

From,

[Name of applicant,

Address,

Contact Details]

Date………………………..

To,

[Name of Recipient,

Designation/Department,

Name of Institution/Organization,

Address,

Contact Details]

Subject- ………………………………………………………………………………..

Respected Sir/Madam,

I write this Letter of Motivation as an expression of how passionate I am about pursuing (name of the program) at your esteemed university. With this letter, I would like to convey my wish to seek admission into the bachelor’s program in Economics and I am enclosing all related documents along with it.

I am [Name of Applicant] and I have had a keen affinity towards the field of economics ever since I was introduced to the subject in the ninth grade. The theories of how the commercial world functions have intrigued me to take a closer look at the field since a young age and I had decided early on that I would explore the subject in depth at my undergraduate level of education.

My interest in the subject has always been encouraged by my school and I have regularly participated in inter-school debates in Economics. You will find all relevant certificates attached. Additionally, my articles on current economic affairs have also been published several times in the school newspaper, excerpts of which I have attached along with this letter.

I sincerely believe that an education from a university of your stature will help me realize my dreams of making worthwhile contributions to the field of economics and I too can add a positive energy to the student body that I would be a part of.

With this I would like to close the letter stating that I shall be greatly honored to be considered for a seat at such an esteemed institution.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Warm Regards.

Writing a strong and impactful motivation letter will ensure that your application is considered sincerely by the admission offices, and you have an edge in the race for a seat in the university of your choice. Consider reading the many samples of motivation letters available online, consult people who have written successful letters to gain admission in foreign institutes and do all the research you can about specifications mentioned by each university. Do not forget to be creative in the manner you write the motivation letter, throw light on your personality, and make it as unique as possible. You will find a variety of articles discussing studying abroad in detail on upGrad.

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Sample Motivation Letter for Study Abroad

Given below is a letter of motivation sample which can be used as a reference for students aspiring to study abroad-

From,

[Name of applicant,

Address,

Contact Details]

Date………………………..

To,

[Name of Recipient,

Designation/Department,

Name of Institution/Organization,

Address,

Contact Details]

Subject- __________________________________

Respected ma’am/sir,

My name is _____________, and I write this letter to seek the opportunity of pursuing my master’s degree from your esteemed university. As a second-year student studying International Relations, I am at a juncture where I must begin to think about my post-college plans. Throughout my academic programs, I have always reflected on how every ounce of the knowledge I have gained would benefit me in the future. Now, I wish to take my education to the next level with a chance to enhance my current understanding by studying at one of the most prestigious International Relations programs in the world. Spending a year in ______________ would allow me to not only receive exceptional training in the field but also will enable me to gain new perspectives into international diplomacy.

A structured literary experience outside of the country is crucial to my plan of eventually becoming an ambassador. I have traveled extensively for volunteer work and pleasure, and I have found that each occasion has strengthened my view of the world and given me new problems to contemplate. One of my most unforgettable experiences was spending three months in the jungles of Brazil working with indigenous communities to form a record of traditional beliefs and medicines. This catalog was not merely a source of information for anthropologists and historians but also illustrated a rapidly declining population’s cultural history. These experiences abroad have certainly enlightened me about the humanity inherent in every person, and I am determined to do my best in the future to present the best for those I represent. 

The university of _____________ boasts one of the most challenging and well-rounded International Relations programs in the world. I look forward to taking classes at your great university, where some of the greatest diplomats and thinkers presented their thoughts. The emphasis of this program on recognizing diversity and recognizing population modulation truly sets it apart from the rest. As a student, I would endeavor every day to excel in my classes and fully immerse myself in a world that I have never encountered before. I know the road to serving my country overseas will be difficult. Still, I know that my experience at the university of ______________ will provide me with the skills and unforgettable experiences that I could not attain anywhere else.

Warm Regards.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

What should you not write in a motivational letter?

Do not lie about your skills, experiences, or achievements in your motivation letter, as it can seriously hamper your chances of getting a chance in the institute of your choice. You should strictly refrain from putting in information about the institute based on conjecture. Research well before writing anything about the institute in your motivational letter. Also, avoid cliche phrases as overuse of these statements will not make your motivation letter appear genuine, and chances are your application will be rejected as it will not catch the reader’s attention.

How do you write a powerful motivation letter?

The most important factors of a good motivation letter are- precision, passion, structure, lucidity, and genuineness. Be precise about your accomplishments, experiences, goals so that your passion for the field is clear from the outset. You also need to be careful about structuring your motivation letter so that the various sections are distinctly understandable, and it is easy to peruse your letter. Use straightforward, conversational language to express yourself in a story-like manner with utmost genuineness without using cliche phrases as it can go against your interests.

What should a motivational letter contain?

A motivational letter should contain all relevant information about you – accomplishments, experiences, interests, goals, visions, skills, etc. You should also state your reasons for choosing a particular institute and address all these things through a well-structured introduction, main body, and conclusion.

What is your motivation for studying abroad?

The motivation for studying abroad can be different for each student, but usually, the one thing that attracts them is opportunities. When you study abroad, your chances of forming connections with important people increase manifolds, increasing your chances of getting better jobs. Studying abroad also allows students to develop important life skills such as communication, cooperation, leadership, group work, etc.

How do I write a motivation letter for studying abroad?

When writing a motivation letter for studying abroad, you need to research well about the institute you are choosing and its prospects. Start by introducing yourself and move on to give the reader a brief account of your accomplishments and experiences. You can then explain your interests and your visions which you think can benefit the future of the field you are pursuing.

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