Whether you are a Bachelor’s or Master’s student applying for a scholarship, you will probably need to write a motivation letter. This document is often the most crucial part of your application, and knowing how to write it well can make you stand out among thousands of other students.
Here is everything you need to know to write a successful scholarship motivation letter…
What Is a Motivation Letter?
A motivation letter is an essay that demonstrates your interest in an academic programme or scholarship. This document introduces you and details your background and future plans to the selection board.
In other words, the motivation letter will convince the selection committee that you are the right candidate for the programme or scholarship.
Although a motivation letter and a personal statement can often contain similar information, they have different purposes, and you must understand each of them to avoid submitting the wrong document.
Your motivation letter will describe your relevant experience, highlight your strengths, and propose future work to show the reader why you deserve the award. This will be your chance to define your goals, explain what you plan to achieve, and show your potential.
They usually range from 400 to 700 words. You should divide your essay into an introductory paragraph, two or three body paragraphs, and a conclusion, crafting it to fit your content and the institution’s requirements.
You will need to use your best judgment: don’t make it so short that you lack space to deliver your argument, but also don’t make it so long that you add unnecessary information. Every paragraph counts.
What Should You Include in Your Motivation Letter?
While each letter is unique, certain common elements are expected from the applicant. Still, you can follow a simple three-part structure for your scholarship motivation letter, with an introduction, body, and conclusion.
In your introductory paragraph, you should:
- Start by identifying yourself: add your personal information and contact details in a header.
- Open your letter with why you are applying for the scholarship. Introduce yourself to the reader by informing them of the programme you have been admitted to and how it relates to the scholarship. Establish from the get-go that you are the right candidate for this scholarship, and let the rest of your essay support your point.
In your body paragraphs, you should write about the following:
- Your relevant work experience. Don’t make your motivation letter simply a copy of your CV. Describe specific situations and give examples that show your growth and holistic potential.
- Your educational background. Highlight any academic achievements related to the scholarship or organisation you are applying to. Again, don’t just relay information from your school transcripts. Describe challenges and accomplishments that show your dedication and best qualities.
- You can strengthen your motivation letter by proposing a concrete action plan for what you will do if granted the scholarship. Describe the research you wish to carry out within your Bachelor’s or Master’s programme and how the scholarship would help you achieve it. This will show the reader that you have vision and initiative, clear goals, and a practical approach to them, avoiding the impression that you have an empty interest in their money.
For your conclusion, you can:
- End your motivation letter by summarising the main points from your essay and reaffirming the idea that you are the right person to receive the scholarship.
- Show gratitude to the institution and selection board before signing off.
How to Prepare Your Motivation Letter
Before you start thinking about what you’re going to write, research the institution offering the scholarship, their values, and what they look for in candidates. Use this information to guide your essay, and make sure every sentence you write shows that you are what the institution’s looking for.
Once you know what’s expected of you, brainstorm your argument. Take notes on how you will show that this scholarship is the right one for you and why you are the right candidate, plus any information that could highlight your strengths.
Finally, create an outline for your essay. Organize your paragraphs, which topics to cover, and what each should convey.
None of your paragraphs should be there to repeat information. Every bit of your essay needs to have a purpose within the letter. Ask yourself why each piece of information is important and how it accentuates your best qualities. If you find that a particular segment doesn’t add value to your letter, remove it.
How to Write Your Motivation Letter
When it’s time to start drafting your motivation letter, remember to follow your outline and stay on topic.
Be concise and let your experience speak for itself. If you’ve chosen and framed your stories right, you won’t need to explain too much about why they’re important. Use clear and direct language and don’t stray from your main point.
Remember that a motivation letter is a formal document. You will address professors, managers, and other staff, so be formal. Your letter needs to sound professional, so don’t use slang or colloquialisms.
Be truthful and positive; give some personal information so the reader will get a sense of your personality, but don’t waste space on your essay telling stories that are irrelevant to the scholarship you’re applying to. Avoid any fluff and cliché: every sentence in your essay should be crucial in supporting your application.
Avoid making it a sob story when describing your background. Instead of writing about how you feel, write about what you accomplished and how you’ve evolved from each experience.
Many students have trouble seeing the best in themselves, and they can find it difficult at first to highlight their best qualities. Sometimes, insecurities can prevent you from seeing the value of your experiences, but try your best to be objective about what you’ve learned and the challenges you’ve overcome. Imagine you’re supporting a friend: how would you use measurable achievements to make them see their success?
Lastly, don’t rely too much on templates or generalized formulas. It’s easy to find a pre-made letter online and switch out some details, but that will only make your essay sound impersonal and generic. While these resources can help you get a general idea of what you should write, do your best to be original and write as specific a letter as you can.
How to Revise Your Motivation Letter
You can never be too careful when writing a motivation letter. Spend at least as much time reviewing your essay as you spent writing it.
Don’t assume your essay will come out perfect after your first draft. Ideally, you would start writing it at least a few weeks before the deadline.
After you’ve written your draft, come back to it a few days later with fresh eyes and read it over. You will probably catch mistakes you hadn’t noticed before and make improvements you hadn’t thought of the first time.
Repeat the process the next week, and so on. Even when you are not sitting in front of your computer, your brain will continue to process your work. You might get ideas of things to add or change in your essay during class or while you shower.
Write down every good idea and come back to your letter regularly. Your draft will slowly take on its final form, and within a couple of weeks, it will be much better than the first version.
Ask your friends or family to check your essay and hear their thoughts. If you’re close with a professor, ask them to read it and give you feedback. They will help you catch any grammar errors and give you fresh ideas for improving your essay.
Mistakes to Avoid
Now that you know what to do on your scholarship motivation letter, here are the most common mistakes to avoid at all costs:
- Make sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes.
- Don’t use informal language and empty clichés.
- Don’t be vague, and stay clear from generalizations. Every experience described should be relevant to your argument.
- Don’t write like you believe the scholarship is already yours; this will make you come off as entitled. Don’t angle for sympathy and beg for the scholarship, either. Let your achievements and logical argumentation do the work and persuade the reader.
While motivation letters typically follow a standard content structure, each institution might have specific requirements. Read carefully through the instructions and adapt your strategy to your application.
Also, remember that the goal of a scholarship is to promote institutions, students, and research. If you can show the scholarship committee that your proposal will benefit you as much as your programme and the organisation or department awarding it, your chances of success will increase.
>> You can also learn how to write a successful motivation letter for your Master's application.
Apply all the writing tips you learned here to your motivation letter and good luck!