person holding blue ballpoint pen writing in notebook

How to Write a Letter of Intent for Grad School

Applying for graduate school is a common application process, but it does not have to be a stressful one. A common application requirement for graduate school admission is the letter of intent. Unlike the personal statement which focuses on a student’s personal background, the letter of intent outlines academic success and qualifications. Follow these six steps to organize and write your own letter of intent.  

1. Choose the Right School

The most important step in this process is choosing the right school for you. You should decide exactly what your career and personal goals are, and find a school and program which aligns to those goals. Find a program that fits in with your lifestyle. You should also consider the location and cost of living, the program requirements, and funding options. 

2. More Research

After you select your dream school and program, thoroughly research that school. The letter of intent you write should be carefully crafted and specifically fit the content requirements of the school you are applying for. You should make it clear that you are knowledgeable about the program and school and mention specific points of interest as often as you can. Thoroughly explain how the program and resources at this specific school will help you to achieve your own career goals. 

3. Write An Engaging Opener

Introduce yourself and announce that you are expressing interest in the specific school and program. This is also your chance to write something attention-grabbing and thought provoking. Avoid cliche statements like “I want to help others” or “I have always loved reading and writing.” You should present yourself as an interesting and inspiring future-colleague and professional with the perseverance to handle the intellectual, mental, emotional, and financial strains of graduate school. 

4. Include Highlights

This is where you should illustrate your greatest academic accomplishments. These can be research projects, presentations, awards, degrees or certifications; also, provide important context to your achievements. Emphasize that you have a special skill or talent. What is a standout quality that will get you noticed? This is where you sell yourself as a great addition to the program with the potential to do great work. Describe the role you play to your school and community. Include some of your personal qualities and strengths, such as integrity, care, tenacity, or other qualities which will help you succeed in school and in life.  

5. Add a Memorable Closing

Reiterate why you would be a good fit for this school and program. End your letter with something thoughtfully and inspiring – a message which will leave your readers on a good note. Wrap up your letter by expressing your gratitude to the members of the admissions board for taking the time to read your letter and considering you. 

6. Sell Yourself

A great letter of intent sheds light on who you are as a person and student. You should paint a vision of your goals and dreams. Write about the valuable contributions you plan on making in society and discuss your desire to grow as a thinker and scholar. Admissions boards are looking for leaders who can demonstrate strength of character. Illustrate yourself as a motivated person who will stand up for things you care about. 

Graduate school takes a great amount of dedication. A well-written letter of intent should achieve these goals: It should demonstrate to an admissions team why you are interested in this specific school and program; It should demonstrate your research interests and passion for learning about those interests; and, it should demonstrate your writing is thoughtful and skilled. With a superb letter of intent, you can get yourself noticed by the admissions team of your ideal graduate school and program.  

Author: Jacqui Donaldson also writes poetry and creative nonfiction. Her work has been published in The Vehicle, Loud Coffee Press, Across the Margin and others. Connect with Jacqui on Instagram and Twitter @Jacquiverse.

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