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.
Now that you’ve decided to apply to graduate schools, your next step is completing your application materials. One of the most important pieces of your packet is a letter of intent, sometimes called a “statement of purpose” or “personal statement.” This essay allows the admission committee to get to know you as a person, not just a student and collection of statistics.
More importantly, your letter of intent is meant to convince the committee that you’re a valuable addition to their program. In order to do this, your statement needs to stand out from the hundreds of others in the pile. Rather than give the admission committee a complete biography, highlight some of the most important moments in your academic or professional careers—those moments that will give the reviewing committee a strong sense of who you are and your commitment to the field.
As you write, keep your audience in mind. The committee members are not only professionals in the field, but they are your future colleagues. The key is to grab them right from the start, so your introduction is particularly important. It should get the reader’s attention immediately so they want to keep reading and learn more about you.
A few other tips to keep in mind:
Discuss your interest in the field
This may sound like a no-brainer, but the whole purpose of this essay is to wow the committee with your passion for what you’ll be studying.Sure, you like it and are excited to learn more. But why?What do you love most about it? Remember, the other applicants have the same passion as you do. What sets you apart from everyone else? Why this field above any others? While the primary purpose of this essay is to let the committee get to know you a little better, it’s also a good way to get you to do some serious thinking about the commitment you want to make.
Mention your end goal
What are you going to do once you have that degree in your hand? Go into some explanation of your career goals and how your grad studies will help you reach them. Admission committees are also thinking about your legacy as a student and how your future accomplishments will reflect on their institution.
Cite key, discrete examples as much as possible throughout your essay. So you’re passionate about the field—what initially piqued your interest? What was the defining moment that convinced you that you were on the right path? Tell these stories in the context of how they have motivated your career decision.
Youdon’t need to give a laundry list of everything you’ve ever accomplished. Share some of the key moments that have shaped you professionally as well as academically and influenced your decision to attend grad school.
It may be tempting to offer a lengthy expository narrative, detailing your life and how you arrived at this juncture. And if those details really support your bid for a place in graduate school, you can include them. But, in general, you want to keep your essay subject tightly focused on why you want study what you want to study where you want to study it.
Yes, your letter of intent is technically an academic essay. But don’t rely on your thesaurus to find the longest, most complicated-sounding words to try to impress the committee. Just as you did as an undergraduate applicant, use your authentic voice and write as yourself—save the academic vocabulary for your papers!
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