As with the personal statement
and other admissions requirements, the letter of interest is a crucial and sometimes challenging component of the graduate application. Among other important things such as GRE scores and the like, the graduate student has to also take into consideration the impact of a well-crafted interest or intent letter. So what are the commonsense steps to follow for a great interest letter?
Step #1 Do your homework: Investigate your school of interest
The first and most important step of writing your letter of interest is to really prepare yourself by learning all you can about your prospective school. One of the most embarrassing things you can do with this task is to show the review committee that you are really not as interested as you say you are simply because you picked the wrong program to apply to! A little effort goes a long way. Before you even attempt to write anything, be absolutely sure of the program you're applying to, its requirements, the courses they offer, the scheduling of those courses, and whether or not the program will work for you and your lifestyle.
Step #2 Question your motives and craft responses
A bit of self-disclosure on your own beforehand can make the writing process much easier for those tough questions you may have to answer. A lot of what must occur in the interest or intent letter is to convince the committee that this particular program is right for you, your career and life goals.
In doing this you should check your own motives and be honest and sincere with yourself from the beginning. In many cases, if you're letter is a 'blanket' one (the same letter for several schools) or you have a lot of uncertainties with your decision to attend grad school, or other issues, the reviewer will see this in your writing. A good tip is to try and iron these things out before writing to provide confident and convincing explanations as to why you are applying to grad school and why you chose this particular program.
Step #3 Develop a mini-profile of your academic and/or professional accomplishments
You can start this task by digging up any old awards, degrees, or certificates you may have in your possession. A portion of your interest letter should definitely address your major accomplishments (both professional and academic) and how they make you an ideal candidate for the school.
Some things you may want to mention are
- significant GPA score or noteworthy attributions such as dean's list
- specific research endeavors or internships conducted
- any type of special trainings, licensing, or qualifications from an employer or other governing body
Step #4 Keep your resume handy and review professional experiences
Your work experiences and professional background is just as significant as the previously mentioned accomplishments. Your past experiences can be used to illustrate your appropriateness for the program due to your proven interest and time invested in the field. *If your work experiences do not represent the same discipline you should discuss this and explain why you decided to embark on this new career path.
Step #5 List any special skills or talents you have
This information should be made distinct from your accomplishments and specifically indicate skills and talents that you possess and can bring along with you to the graduate program. Skills and talents should be pretty unique in nature, and not necessarily be something that many people have such as computer proficiency, for example. Some sample skills and talents include; fluency in another language, outstanding research, mathematical, or scientific abilities, or technical expertise with programming or similar jobs.
Step #6 Identify goals and map out your academic future
Along with sharing your past experiences, it is also very important to textually create a map of your future goals. The reader should be able to easily follow this map without being overloaded with unnecessary details or detours (for example, personal goals that are not necessarily appropriate or fitting for the context of the letter). Likewise, your map should also be specific enough to show the connection between your personal plans, goals, and aspirations and what the program has to offer its students in the long and short term. Overall all elements should connect in such a way that the benefit of the program for you is clear for all to see.
Step #7 List the factors that distinguish this grad school from others
This step actually connects to the first step in that you must conduct your share of homework on your school of interest. This also includes knowing the specific specialities and teaching methods or resources offered by the school and its positioning as compared to other schools of its caliber. Such details may make its way into your letter when explaining why you feel 'this program is for you' for instance. Likewise, specific information about faculty members should also be indicated. Faculty members play a major role in any institution-especially graduate education. Citing them and what they can offer you as teachers or mentors will definitely demonstrate your investigative efforts regarding the school.
Step #8 Create an outline for your letter
A thorough outline may be the most valuable step of the letter writing process
. Though it may seem out place, to ensure that you address each concern, an outline can be very helpful in listing the important points that should go into your letter.
A basic outline may be as follows;
- Introduction stating the program you're applying for and any other basic identifying information
- Background information on you and your professional and academic foundation
- Specific accomplishments
- Any notable research projects or internships (or something similar to them)
- Explanations as to why you would be a good candidate
- Demonstration of your knowledge of the program and how it fits into your life
- Summary of your main skills and academic merit
- Conclusion restating why you would be a good candidate
Step #9 Write a few sentences about why you're the best
As seen in the brief outline in step #8, you have to do a bit of 'selling' to advocate for yourself. Just as you would for a job, the objective of your letter in part is to convince the review committee to admit you into their program. Therefore in a tasteful and suitable manner you should round up all your key features and accomplishments and present them together in a complete 'sales package' at some point in you letter (preferably at the end).
Step #10 Craft your first draft
The last and final step is to get writing! Though this list isn't all-inclusive, you now have the basic information needed to hit the ground running. And when drafting remember that interest or intent letters should not be ridiculously long-a page or two typed should suffice.