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10 dos and don’ts of writing your Master’s motivational letter

By Sean Campbell• Last updated: Jul 13, 2023
10 dos and don’ts of writing your Master’s motivational letter
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After acing your undergraduate degree, it may be time to take another big step in your education by studying for a Master’s degree (read our article on why a master’s degree could be right for you). So if you’re set on studying a master’s, you’ll need a strong application. 

Whereas undergraduate degrees require a statement of purpose as part of the application process, you’ll need to write a motivational letter for a Master’s Degree.  It’s one of the most important parts, if not the most important part of your application, so getting it right is pretty, well… important! 

But what exactly is a motivational letter? In a nutshell, it’s the academic equivalent of a cover letter that you’d write when applying for a job. There are letters of motivation for PhDs as well as Master’s degrees, in which you’re expected to highlight why you’re intending to study that degree at that specific university (i.e your motive), and why you are an ideal candidate. . 

Why is the motivation letter for a Master's so important?

Master’s degree admissions are pretty competitive, so your letter of motivation could be the difference between getting accepted and missing out on your ideal choice. The motivation letter for a master’s isn’t just a simple, cookie-cutter protocol either -- it’s read in detail by admissions teams who view it as a reflection of your commitment to and suitability for a challenging course. 

But it doesn’t have to be such a scary prospect! Think of the positive side of things -- the motivation letter gives you a perfect opportunity to really shine, write in a personal way about your goals, and sell yourself! 

With the right preparation and planning, you can write a winning letter of motivation for your master’s. So, here are a couple of important things to remember when writing yours.

1. DO state your reasons for your choice

Even if you’re applying to more than one university, make sure to tailor your letter of motivation for each specific university. Explain why you’ve chosen to apply for this course and this university. This helps show the admissions team that you’ve done your homework on their university and study programme. 

2. DON’T leave it too late

We give this advice for just about every aspect of your university life, but leaving things to the last minute is never a good idea! Start thinking about what to write in your motivational letter a few months in advance. Do your research on the university and degree, think about why it’s right for you, and brainstorm about how you can set yourself apart from the other applicants.

3. DO explain why you’re a great match

This is an essential part of your letter of application. Make sure to go into some detail on what you can offer the university, not just what it can offer you. Elaborate on your qualifications, achievements, relevant work or life experience, and any personality traits that would help a research group or university as a whole.

4. DON’T address the wrong person

This is such a simple little thing that so many people get wrong! When you’re checking out the application process to your university, they’ll often state the name of the person to address your letter of motivation to. When this is provided, make sure to use it -- that way they’ll know you’ve actually read up on them. If no name is provided however, use a formal, neutral address such as, “Dear admission committee” or, “To whom it may concern.” 

5. DON’T overdo it on the compliments

It’s great to show your admiration for a university or individual programme, but it’s important not to take this too far. Anything too “extra” and you’ll come across as insincere or grovelling. Neither of these are good things! 

So be cool... The admissions staff already know how amazing their university is. Say what’s great about them and what you admire in a succinct way and leave it at that. 

Oh, and the same applies to self-compliments! Talk yourself up, sell yourself, be confident and self assured, but don’t take things too far here!

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6. DO explain your motivation

This ummm… should be obvious! But some people do forget to write about their motivation in a letter of motivation for a Master’s or PhD. However, this is the one part where you can really make things personal and appeal to the emotions of the admissions team. Here you can stand out from any other applicants by explaining why you want to do this course, how you arrived at this point, and what you want to achieve in the future. 

7. DON’T write informally

Tone is important when writing just about anything. There’s a time and place for lighthearted, informal language and even slang, but the letter of motivation isn’t that. Keep it formal and respectful, without using overly fancy language. This shows that you’re taking your application seriously, are self-responsible, and that you can write well. Save the slang for another time!

8. DO follow a structure

The content of your letter of motivation is the part you want to stand out, not the structure. Use a clear title, write it in 3-5 paragraphs, and use a standard formal font and size. All of this lets your letter of motivation create a good first impression. Also, try to keep your sentences short and to the point, as this makes your writing easier to understand, while allowing less room for mistakes on your part. 

 9. DON’T write too much

It’s tempting to write as much as you possibly can, including every little detail which may help win your application. But this is a mistake! Remember that the admissions team read hundreds, maybe even thousands of letters of motivation. Make their life easier by keeping it short and to the point! So how long should your letter of motivation be? No longer than one page! Ideally it’ll be between a half and three-quarters of a page.  

10. DO show, don’t tell

OK so you’re not allowed to use images or videos to literally show the admissions team something about you… But that doesn’t mean you can’t still paint them a good picture (figuratively speaking). Here’s an example of what we mean: Rather than saying, “I’m a really good leader,” or “I’m self-motivated,” give an example of a time where you actively demonstrated good leadership or self-motivation. You see, anyone can say they’re something, but not everyone can show it. So show it!

OK so you’ve read this far. I guess that means you’re interested in studying a degree abroad? That’s great! Check out the huge range of courses and universities that we can help you apply for. Get started with Edvoy or click the button below!

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Sean is a freelance writer, copywriter & & editor from Ireland....Read More

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