Writing a Letter of Intent for Graduate School That Works

When I was applying to graduate schools, the letter of intent was the piece that required the most thought and effort. In this guide, I will walk you through the process of writing a standout letter of intent for graduate school, complete with three unique templates, tips from my personal experiences, and real-life examples.

Key Takeaways

  • Purpose of a Letter of Intent: Introduce yourself, explain your academic and professional goals, and demonstrate your fit for the program.
  • Structure: Introduction, academic background, professional experience, reasons for choosing the program, and conclusion.
  • Tone: Professional, yet personal and engaging.
  • Length: Typically 1-2 pages.
  • Customization: Tailor each letter to the specific program and school.

Introduction





Writing a letter of intent for graduate school can feel daunting, but it’s your opportunity to make a memorable first impression. Think of it as a narrative that ties your academic and professional journey to your aspirations for advanced study. Your letter should highlight your unique qualifications, your passion for the field, and why you’re an excellent fit for the program.

What is a Letter of Intent?

A letter of intent is a formal document expressing your intention to enroll in a specific graduate program. It is your chance to convey your motivations, career goals, and how the program aligns with your aspirations. Unlike a resume or CV, which lists your achievements, the letter of intent provides context and tells the story behind those achievements.

Why is it Important?

The letter of intent is crucial because it:

  • Introduces you to the admissions committee.
  • Showcases your writing skills.
  • Explains your interest in the program.
  • Highlights your qualifications.
  • Demonstrates your commitment to your field of study.

Structuring Your Letter of Intent

Introduction

Start with a strong opening that captures the reader’s attention. Mention the specific program and university you’re applying to and a brief overview of your academic and professional background.

Academic Background



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Provide details about your academic journey. Highlight relevant coursework, research, and any academic achievements that demonstrate your preparedness for graduate study.

Professional Experience

Discuss your professional experiences, especially those related to your field of study. Explain how these experiences have shaped your goals and prepared you for graduate school.

Reasons for Choosing the Program

Explain why you chose this particular program and university. Mention specific faculty members, research facilities, or courses that attracted you.

Conclusion

Wrap up your letter by summarizing your key points and expressing your enthusiasm for the program. Include a thank you note to the admissions committee for considering your application.

Personal Tips for Writing a Strong Letter of Intent

  1. Be Authentic: Your letter should reflect your genuine interest and personality. Avoid clichés and be honest about your motivations and goals.
  2. Do Your Research: Tailor each letter to the specific program. Mention faculty members, research projects, or courses that align with your interests.
  3. Proofread: A well-written, error-free letter demonstrates your attention to detail and professionalism.
  4. Seek Feedback: Have mentors, colleagues, or friends review your letter to provide constructive feedback.

Real-Life Example

When I was applying to the University of XYZ’s Psychology program, I emphasized my research on cognitive behavioral therapy and how I admired the work of Dr. Smith, a leading professor at the university. By connecting my past experiences with the specific offerings of the program, I was able to create a compelling narrative that resonated with the admissions committee.

Template 1: General Letter of Intent

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]
[Email Address]
[Phone Number]
[Date]

[Recipient Name]
[Title]
[Department]
[University Name]
[University Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]

Dear [Recipient Name],

I am writing to express my intent to apply for the [specific program] at [University Name]. With a strong academic background in [Your Field] and a passion for [specific area of interest], I am eager to contribute to and grow within your esteemed program.

My academic journey began at [Your Undergraduate Institution], where I majored in [Your Major] and graduated with [Honors/Distinctions]. During my time there, I engaged in extensive research on [specific topic], which led to [any notable outcomes, e.g., publications, presentations]. This experience solidified my commitment to advancing my knowledge and skills in [specific field].

Professionally, I have worked as a [Your Job Title] at [Your Company/Organization], where I have gained invaluable experience in [related tasks or projects]. These roles have not only honed my technical skills but also deepened my understanding of [specific area], reinforcing my desire to pursue advanced studies.

I am particularly drawn to [University Name] because of [specific reasons: faculty, research facilities, curriculum, etc.]. The work of [Professor’s Name] on [specific topic] aligns closely with my research interests, and I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to and learn from your program.

Thank you for considering my application. I am looking forward to the possibility of discussing how my background, skills, and enthusiasm can contribute to the continued success of [University Name]’s [specific program].

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Template 2: Research-Focused Letter of Intent

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]
[Email Address]
[Phone Number]
[Date]

[Recipient Name]
[Title]
[Department]
[University Name]
[University Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]

Dear [Recipient Name],

I am writing to express my intent to apply for the [specific program] at [University Name], with a keen interest in pursuing research in [specific area of interest]. My academic and professional experiences have prepared me well for the challenges and opportunities presented by your distinguished program.

At [Your Undergraduate Institution], I majored in [Your Major] and undertook significant research on [specific topic]. My senior thesis, titled “[Thesis Title],” explored [brief description of research], and was recognized with [any awards or distinctions]. This project sparked my interest in [specific research area] and motivated me to seek advanced training.

My professional experience as a [Your Job Title] at [Your Company/Organization] further developed my skills in [related tasks or projects]. Here, I led a project on [specific project], which resulted in [any notable outcomes, e.g., publications, improvements, innovations]. This experience reinforced my desire to contribute to the academic community through research.

I am particularly excited about the research being conducted at [University Name], especially the work of [Professor’s Name] on [specific topic]. The opportunity to work with [Professor’s Name] and access [specific resources, e.g., labs, libraries] at your university is a key factor in my decision to apply. I am confident that the [specific program] at [University Name] will provide me with the necessary skills and knowledge to advance my research career.

Thank you for considering my application. I am eager to discuss how my research interests and background align with the goals of your program.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Template 3: Career-Focused Letter of Intent

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]
[Email Address]
[Phone Number]
[Date]

[Recipient Name]
[Title]
[Department]
[University Name]
[University Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]

Dear [Recipient Name],

I am writing to express my intent to apply for the [specific program] at [University Name]. With a strong foundation in [Your Field] and substantial professional experience, I am enthusiastic about advancing my career through your esteemed program.

I completed my undergraduate studies at [Your Undergraduate Institution], where I majored in [Your Major]. My coursework and projects, particularly in [specific courses or projects], have provided me with a solid understanding of [specific field]. My academic performance was recognized with [any honors or awards], underscoring my dedication and capability.

In my professional role as a [Your Job Title] at [Your Company/Organization], I have gained significant experience in [related tasks or projects]. Notably, I [describe a specific project or responsibility], which led to [any notable outcomes, e.g., increased efficiency, improved processes, recognition]. This hands-on experience has equipped me with practical skills and a deep understanding of [specific area], and has driven my decision to pursue advanced studies.

I am particularly attracted to [University Name] because of [specific reasons: curriculum, faculty, career services, etc.]. The opportunity to learn from [Professor’s Name] and engage with [specific resources or facilities] will be instrumental in achieving my career goals. I am confident that your program will enable me to develop the expertise and professional network necessary for success in [specific field].

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the possibility of contributing to and growing within the [specific program] at [University Name].

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Being Too Generic: Tailor your letter to each program and avoid using a one-size-fits-all approach.
  2. Focusing Only on Academics: Include professional experiences and how they have prepared you for graduate school.
  3. Neglecting Proofreading: Errors can detract from your professionalism and attention to detail.
  4. Lack of Specifics: Provide concrete examples and specific reasons for choosing the program.

Conclusion

Writing a letter of intent for graduate school is a critical step in your application process. By following this guide and utilizing the provided templates, you can craft a compelling narrative that showcases your qualifications, passion, and fit for the program.