I have enclosed a sample "motivation letter" below. I assisted a young man from Germany during the summer of 2007. Please note, I have changed the universities and dates, although the time was still during the summer / fall 2007.

As I looked through our correspondence, I noted that this was his 26th revision. Is it perfect? No. Is there still room for improvement? Yes. Was it good enough to get him admitted to his chosen program? Yes, he was admitted quickly.

His initial draft was poor. Twenty-six revisions helps tremendously. As you read through his letter, you can see from his credentials and accomplishments that he is very smart. However, even extremely bright people need to think through their letters carefully.

During our correspondence, I emphasized that he needed to be specific. Notice that nothing is vague. There is detail and meaning in almost all sentences. Notice, too, that his letter is confident. I am pleased with the effort and determination he put into his letter, and even more pleased he was accepted to follow his dream.

I hope his letter helps you create your own letter.
Stanford University
June 28, 2007

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am applying to your Master program of "Cognitive Neuroscience" with specialization in "Action, Perception & Consciousness" starting in September 2008. My career ambition is to become a doctor researching Brain-Computer Interface (BCI).

In high school I graduated with mathematics and physics as my majors. I am continuing my academic career with the study of "Knowledge Engineering | Computer Science" at Technical University of Munich. In June 2008 I will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree with an expected average score above 85 percent. While I rank among the top five students, I am trying to graduate among the top three.

As my first exposure to neuroscience I took the course "Knowledge Representation and Cognitive Psychology" (KPCP) in my studies. I was especially impressed that, despite of the advances in technology, there remains much to learn about ourselves, most especially about the human brain. After attending your Open Day, I became acquainted with the fascinating method of BCI. I want to study at your university and focus on BCI because that allows me to combine both my interests in learning more about applied computer science as well as investigating cognitive processes.

Complementing my strong academic performance are my advanced skills in leadership and communication. In several of the projects during my studies, I was the team leader responsible for building and leading our project team. At the beginning of the program, teams were assigned three key members: programmer, an English speaker, and a mathematician. Everyone taught his or her teammates while exploiting his or her own special expertise. As the team leader, I was responsible for not only my mathematic area of expertise, but also distributing project assignments and responsibilities as well as governing interpersonal relationships.

By donating my time as a promotion team member of the university, I learned to understand how emotions, especially enthusiasm, can motivate others. My task was to represent my study program and to convince prospective students of the university's excellence. Through my discussion with these eager students, I learned much about different cultures. Furthermore, I helped people to overcome their insecurities by exchanging experiences and sharing my first impressions. Throughout my service, I successfully helped many students understand the benefits of my study program by giving presentations and one-on-one interviews.

I am fortunate to have an exciting opportunity in performing research as an intern at the English Forums BCI Institute in Germany starting in June 2007. I always wanted learn more about the relationship of language and cognition. My research question will be related to the question: To what extent do color categories differ among languages? Moreover, I am looking forward to meeting my fellow researchers, from whom I will learn much about cognitive neuroscience and its applications. This is a great opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge from the "Knowledge Representation and Cognitive Psychology" course in hands-on research. Moreover, this internship is an excellent preparation for your program and an important milestone in my young career.

I want to study at Stanford University because of your outstanding educational system, focus on gathering relevant work experience, and your excellent facilities. From speaking with students and professors from your university and other universities, I am confident of my decision. With many distinguished scientists as professors, I know that I will gain expert knowledge at the forefront of discovery. Further supporting professors' lectures are your university's use of advanced equipment and cooperation with top neuroscience centres. Moreover, by combining my theoretical and specialized education with hands-on research in the second year, I will gain critical work experience. All these strong positives allow me to to research cutting-edge technologies, such as BCI, and to pursue my dreams and ambitions.

Given my past history of commitment to excellence, I am confident that I will bring a high level of energy and enthusiasm to your program. I am sure to exceed your expectations, because of both my academic and interpersonal skills as well as the experience gained from my internship. I will enrich the program by enabling fellow students and professors to benefit from my ambitious and open nature. Furthermore, my international background and interdisciplinary education will add more diversity to your program.

Thank you for considering my application, and I look forward to your acceptance.

Sincerely yours,

When writing motivational letters, you need to clear your head, think through what you want to say, and say it in a clear and concise manner.

I will provide a quick template below.

Opening letter stuff...inside addresses and date

Dear Sir:

A quick paragraph to say why you are writing. Don't make the reader guess or wade through a lot of text. Just come right out and say why you are writing.

Next, tell the reader about yourself. If you say you're good at certain subjects or activities, show some proof. Actions speak louder than words.What you must not do is blather on with a bunch of impressive adjectives and no proof or support. All that does is prove you have an overactive imagination.

Next, tell the reader why you want to go this particular institution. Most of you blather on about what a great and prestigious university you are applying to. That simply translates into lack of imagination and desparation. Instead, find something honest and truthful you can say. Perhaps it is something as simple as, "upon graduation I plan to work in X industry. I have spoken to two alumni of the university who provided helpful advice." You don't know any alumni? Call the university and ask if they could arrange a meeting for you. Use Google, Facebook, and Linkedin to find them. This university is important to you, right?

Wrap up your letter by summarizing previous points. Sound positive and confident, even if you are not.


Eager Beaver Student

The letter I provided in the previous post is rather long. And it isn't perfect. As you can tell from reading the letter, the student was exceptionally bright. His letter would needed to be exceptionally poor for him to have been rejected. Most students, however, need a good or strong letter.

You will find, for most initial sample letters shown in the forum, my assessment is harsh. That's on purpose. I want you to hate your initial attempt and start over. If I were gentle, you would try to make subtle changes to salvage your letter. Instead, I want you to make a clean break and I want to impress upon you that your current effort is woefully inadequate. Once we have accomplished those two goals, we can begin to make real progress.

While you might be angry, indeed, even really angry, at me because of my assessment, ask yourself: Would you rather know the truth even if it hurts, or would you rather your application be rejected?

Once you pick yourself up off the ground, then look at your letter objectively with emphasis on some of my or others' comments. Start thinking about your letter, starting with a fresh blank page.

Your letter will come together faster and easier than you think. For most students that I help, we go through more than ten iterations. So that means, you can't leave your letter to the last minute. If you do, fail.

I can only recall one student—and she's the best I have helped so far—who cranked out 17 iterations in about four days by email. I have never seen such fierce determination and intelligence before. She's graduated now and is doing extremely well. No surprises.

So don't let this motivational letter stuff drive you nuts. It's a challenge. At the end of the process you will have a strong letter, or at least one that is stronger than you began with, and you will learn something about writing. You are getting a twofer.

Good luck.
This is a repeat of a prior post . However, it is worthwhile repeating.

For those of you writing letters and essays, you might the following Firefox Add-on helpful.

* After the Deadline

Write with confidence... on the web

checks spelling, misused words, style, and grammar using artificial intelligence and natural language processing.

Now you can use it in your browser. Write better blog comments, tweet with correct grammar, and compose professional messages.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Before submitting your work for review, please, please, please run it through your MS Word grammar checker or some other checker.

In addition to simple spelling and grammar errors, pay particular attention to the key statistics:
  • Passive Sentences
  • Flesch Reading Ease
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
The Wikipedia is your friend with its article Flesch–Kincaid readability test .

Make sure your document is readable. If it is filled with super big words and long, complex sentences, you'll bore the audience.
Stephen King, the famous novelist, wrote an excellent, general, fun, and interesting book on writing:

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft

The above link is an Amazon affiliate link to Amazon.com in the U.S. If you choose to order through a different Amazon or store, that's fine. At least you have the title of the book.

If you visit the Amazon U.S. store, you'll see his book is highly rated.

I read his book a while ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. And, because I am participating in English Forums again, I plan to reread the book shortly.

Good writing is much more than simply getting the vocabulary and grammar right, although if the vocabulary and grammar are wrong, nothing else matters. Good writing is about capturing the readers attention and directing the reader's mind to what you want her to focus on. If she has to struggle to comprehend your text, you've lost.

Much of the formal writing is about clearity and conciseness. As a writer, you want to focus on your message. So many beginning writers introduce vague topics and make unsupported claims that their letters fall flat. They fall flat because the reader is asked to infer and believe stuff without evidence or clarity of argument.

So if you are serious about writing, I recommend Stephen King's inexpensive book. It's a wonderful book that will help make you a better writer, and you'll have an enjoyable time reading his book.