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Cover Letter for Graduate School: How to Nail It

It is a general truth that for a fruitful collaboration with someone, a positive first impression is essential. Indeed, if the first experience of communication with someone was far from pleasant, it can be hard to establish friendly relationships in the future. This rule works with first meetings, interviews, applications, and other situations. For instance, the role of the first impression is decisive for someone who is applying to a graduate school, as a good perception of a student basically guarantees that he will be accepted. Due to this reason, writing a cover letter for graduate school is treated seriously by students, as it is their chance to make a long-lasting positive impression about themselves. This article provides useful tips and suggestions on how to write a cover letter for graduate school.

Address Your Letter

The very first element to be included in an effective cover letter is the information about the sender and the addressee. The basic data required is name, surname, name of the company (if any), and contacts of each party. Depending on the form of correspondence, the contacts can include the person’s address, email, or telephone number. In addition, the formal position of the recipient should be mentioned, as well as the sender’s educational establishment and group code.

As for the order of presentation, it should be the following:

  • Sender’s name and contact information;
  • After one blank line, the current date should be written in any format that is more convenient or more conventional in your region;
  • Recipient’s name and contact information.

If in the recent past it was acceptable to send a cover letter for graduate programs without a particular addressee and refer to the recipient as Dear Sir/Madam, nowadays there is no such option. With the information about any organization and its employees available on the Internet and through telephone, any name or contact information can be found. So if you do not know the addressee’s full name, make a little research and find it out.

Working on the Content

Undoubtedly, the most significant parameter of any cover letter for graduate school is its content. It plays the key role in the committee’s decision and outweighs all the formatting nuances altogether. Clearly, the letter has several aims, for instance:

  • Presenting the student, giving a picture about his or her personal and academic qualities;
  • Explaining one’s personal motivation to be studying in the particular establishment;
  • Persuading the committee that this candidate is suitable for the study.

Clearly, the students with a perfect scholarly history and tones of experience have a better chance to be accepted. However, you should not pretend to be better than you actually are being sincere and natural is valued much more than the flattering descriptions of your perfect skills and flawless personality. Thus, make your cover letter for graduate school admission truthful and natural.

As for the structure of the letter, it should be classic, which means it should have an opening, 2-3 paragraphs with main points, and a short conclusion. Make sure to include the following ideas in your writing:

  • The reasons you want to participate in the program. Your personal motivation can play a defining role in your admission, so make sure to voice it clearly. Your interest in the program should be mentioned in the introductory paragraph and restated several times in the letter body.
  • The experience you have in the related area. Which related programs have you participated in? What academic research have you conducted? Where have you worked by now? Which degrees have you defended? 
  • The reasons why your candidateship is perfect to be accepted. What will you contribute to the program? How will your presence among their students influence the existing activities, studying process and campus life? What new ideas for research can you offer?

In addition, it is advisory to know the history of the program you are applying to and mention its significance in your letter. This will show the committee that you care about their institution and want to join particularly that program, and not any random program. Remember to restate your motivation in the concluding sentence of your letter, to reinforce the persuasive tone of the message.

Finishing the Letter

Once the letter is written, you need to end it properly. Before the actual closing greeting, you may need to list the materials that are sent with the letter. The attached documents may include an application form, a resume, a letter of recommendation, certain certificates about your former education, etc. List the materials in alphabetic order using the formatting that matches the chosen referencing style. The programs often have their specific requirements to the style and format of all the application documents, so be sure to check them carefully before submitting.
After the list of materials attached, you need to refer to the addressee with a closing greeting. The formal greetings include “Best Regards,” “Respectfully Yours,” “Sincerely,” etc. Choose the one that matches your initial salutation and use it to end your letter.

Proofread Your Writing

Proofreading is extremely important for a work of such significance. It goes without saying that minor typos or misspelled words are unacceptable for official letters, so running the document through a standard checker is the least you can do to ensure that no errors have been overlooked. In addition, it is important to check the following aspects of your work:

  • Format: check if all the formatting rules have been met. Pay a special attention to formatting greetings and lists;
  • Punctuation: check if all the symbols are used correctly. Use a sample letter to do it if needed;
  • Style: make sure that the proper level of formality is achieved with proper linguistic tools;
  • Grammar: go through every sentence and see if its structure needs to be revised;
  • Logical order of ideas: read your letter from the beginning till the end and see if its ideas need to be rearranged;
  • Coherence: check if the parts of the paper are connected one to another logically and consecutively.

We hope that our cover letter guide has made writing easier for you. Follow our suggestions and you will succeed with the application eventually!

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