What is a Letter of Intent for Graduate School?

letter of intent for graduate school

Graduate School Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is a formal cover letter required for many graduate school applications. In the most basic terms, it declares the applicant’s goals in applying. It also provides context for their application and the information enclosed in it. Sometimes it might be required alongside other writing samples. For example, you might also need to write a personal statement. Other times a school might request the letter by itself.

What Is The Purpose Of A Letter Of Intent for Graduate School?

A graduate school letter of intent tells the application committee more about the applicant. The specifics depend in part on the program, and what the writer chose to include in the letter. But overall, a letter of intent is an opportunity to demonstrate the following attributes.

  • Ability to Follow Directions: There might be no simpler way to undermine your application than by failing to follow the instructions. By fulfilling the school’s request for a letter of intent, you’re demonstrating respect for their process. You're also showing that you’ll make the effort when they ask you for something in the future.
  • Writing Skills: One of the main purposes of a letter of intent is to show the application committee that you’re an articulate writer. A letter of intent shows whether you are able to write a professional, well-edited letter, with the correct format, and clear prose.
  • Attention to Detail: Your letter of intent may also demonstrate your scrupulous attention to detail. By making sure your letter is focused and well-researched, you’ll be able to show that you’ve paid attention to the school and what they’re asking you for. And by paying attention to correct format, grammar, spelling, and punctuation, you’ll show them the level of care you apply to all of your work.
  • Personal Background: Your letter of intent isn’t just about your ability to actually write the letter. It’s about you! It’s a singular opportunity to introduce yourself to the people reading your application. You could show them your personality, how much you care about your area of study, and what led you to pursue it and that school. This way when you finally meet them—such as in an interview—they might have some idea of who you are as an individual.
  • Academic and Professional Achievements: Finally—and maybe even most importantly—your letter of intent could showcase your achievements. These are the things that might make you a great candidate for their program. But be careful. You don’t want to just rehash what they already know from your application. Rather, in your letter, you should provide context for your application and demonstrate your experience in its best light. This may help them understand your application (and you!) a little more thoroughly.

What Does A Letter Of Intent for Graduate School Look Like?

Have you ever written a cover letter for a job? If so, your letter of intent for graduate school will probably look pretty familiar. A letter of intent, after all, is exactly that—a letter. So if you’re familiar with the mechanics of writing a formal business letter, you could use those skills now.

If you’ve never written a letter like this before, or need a refresher, read more about how to write a letter of intent here.

Need something more concrete? You could also look at an example letter of intent for graduate school.

Use these resources to get an idea what your school might be looking for. Then get started writing your letter of intent! Work hard, and revise thoroughly. Then submit your application with the peace of mind that you did all you could to sell yourself to your school of choice.

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