Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity to experience student life in a new environment. Whether you want to study for undergraduate or postgraduate courses abroad, university applications require a letter of motivation as a part of their admission process, or for awarding scholarships. Motivation letters will be read closely by admissions and scholarship communities, as they provide more information beyond academic achievement, such as commitment to, and interest in the degree or study abroad programme. Depending on what you are applying for, the content of a motivation letter will differ slightly, which we will go through in this article.
What is a Letter of Motivation?
Motivation letters for studying abroad are an opportunity to express your commitment and enthusiasm towards a particular degree or programme. Although your educational background is an important part of the process, many admissions committees or research institutes want to consider your academic and personal interests as well. Motivation letters allow you to share your intentions and dedication to a programme, giving you an opportunity to stand out as an individual during the application process.
Why Do You Need a Letter of Motivation?
Motivation letters are typically required during master’s and PhD level degrees, as well as for international students studying abroad. As university places are limited, motivation letters are used by committees to evaluate whether you are the right fit for a programme or degree. Additionally, graduate research programmes, such as a master’s or PhD, are funded by university departments, and therefore need to carefully consider whether a prospective student’s research interests are a worthwhile use of their resources. Therefore, letters of motivation for scholarships or for studying abroad are necessary in order to evaluate candidates based on non-academic metrics such as interests, experience, and ambition.
The Difference Between a Motivation Letter and Personal Statement
Although they sound similar, the difference between a motivation letter and personal statement is their focus. A motivation letter is focused purely on the intention to study a particular degree, or how you fulfil the requirements of a scholarship, whereas a personal statement is a more general letter to "sell" yourself as a well-rounded individual to the university. Likewise, motivation letters are typically required for graduate programmes and scholarships, whereas personal statements are typically required for undergraduate programmes.
How to Write a Motivation Letter
The content of a motivation letter will depend on the type of degree, academic discipline, or scholarship. Overall, the structure of a motivation letter for study will include these parts:
Start your motivation letter with an appropriate and formal greeting. If you have been provided with a name to address the motivation letter to, use it. Otherwise you can address the letter with:
- To the Admissions Committee,
- To the Scholarship Committee,
- To the Reviewers of [scholarship name],
Then, have a succinct paragraph introducing your background and how it led you to applying for a scholarship or to study abroad. As universities often have equal opportunity strategies to avoid discrimination and bias, the introduction paragraph does not need to contain your demographic information such as your age, ethnicity, or gender, unless it directly applies to the main content of your letter.
Use the majority of the word count of your motivation letter on your body paragraphs, where you can share your commitment, background and ambition in more detail. Make sure the paragraphs link nicely together, and that each paragraph contains only one well-discussed idea or theme. Some things you can consider discussing in body paragraphs include:
- How your prior study piqued your interest in a particular research area
- A particular university professor you would like to be advised by (for research degrees) and why
- What makes the degree or university stand out compared to others
- How your experiences (work, internships, previous study) have prepared you for more advanced study such as an MBA or master’s degree
- How your personal or academic goals can be fulfilled by access to the university’s facilities
- How your experiences or background mean you personally fulfil the requirements of a scholarship
The main tip for writing the body of your motivational letter is to link how your personal experience, background or interests align with the universities’ research areas, or how you can achieve your goals through particular facilities, classes or scholarships provided by the university. Ultimately, university admissions committees want to accept students who have intrinsic motivation and interest in the university itself; so keep both you and the reader in mind when discussing your motivations.
Conclude by expressing gratitude to the committee for taking the time to read your motivation letter. Briefly summarise how you feel your background, ambition and experience makes you an ideal candidate for a scholarship or programme.
As academic merit alone does not equate to motivation for studying abroad; motivation letters for scholarships and degrees are a way for you to express how you fulfil the requirements, can provide value to the university, and declare your commitment to a degree or programme. Writing a formal, genuine letter of motivation that focuses on how your experience aligns with the university can help you clearly convey your intentions for studying abroad.
Get Support on Your Study Abroad Application with Intake
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