By Laura Morrison, February 2014
Some graduate programs will request a letter of intent as part of the application materials. The purpose of this letter is to explain your reasons for wanting to attend a particular school. It should state your long and short term academic and career goals. This article will help you through the process of editing your letter.
Your letter of intent should include formal address information. The salutation does not have to be addressed to a single person, instead the greeting can read: Attn: Graduate Selection Committee.
Mr. Robert Smith
February 11, 2013
University of Education
Attn: Graduate Selection Committee
The body of your letter follows the address and salutation. In your introduction be sure to specify your program of interest, and begin an introduction including specific background information.
As you review the body of your letter make sure you keep your eye out for common grammatical mistakes including tense errors, missing or incorrect punctuation, and improper capitalization. Remember to check for consistency throughout the document.
I am applying to your
Capitalize the “M” or “D” when referring to a specific degree such as “John Smith’s Master in Fine Arts.” When the terms are used generally as in the case of the sentence “John then went on to earn his doctorate” the degree should not be capitalized.
There is some debate about punctuation in the abbreviation of degrees (ex. MS vs. M.S.). The practice varies by institution; take note of how the institution you are applying to abbreviates degrees and mimic their style. Demonstrating this level of detail indicates you are a conscientious applicant.
Avoid using extra words; a professional letter is not the venue for overuse of adjectives, flowery descriptions, and complex sentences. Keep your writing clean and to the point.
I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in the third grade. As a student I
I learned much more than multiplication during our study sessions. My teacher taught me to believe in myself.
When producing an initial draft it is common for writers to construct unsophisticated sentences – during the proofreading process, re-evaluate your sentence structure. One way to spot a sentence in need of revision is to look for the word “that” – often the word “that” adds little value to a statement, and it can be indicative of a sentence in need of revision. Consider the following example:
My favorite mentor in my undergraduate program told me that he started out his career as a dishwasher.
My undergraduate mentor told me his career began as a dishwasher.
The second sentence sounds more direct and professional – we eliminated unimportant words and found a way to convey the message succinctly.
Do not be afraid to remove entire sentences from your essay. Sometimes the reason certain phrases sound awkward is because they do not belong in the content.
Thank you for your considering my materials. I look forward to continuing my studies and pursuing my passion at the University of Education
If you are having trouble editing a particular sentence, remove it and review the paragraph without it to see how it sounds. Track your changes in Word so you have the option of changing your mind about particular edits.
Once you think you are finished composing your document step away from it for a period of time. When you revisit the essay conduct a “death edit”; consider every word choice you make in your letter and determine if it adds enough value to warrant a place in your document.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.
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