How to… write a motivational letter for a PhD?
We come across candidates from all over the world and have noticed quit some differences in how people make their motivation letters for our vacancies. While some people call it a State of Purpose (SOP), others a cover letter or a motivation letter, what is most clear is that it should suit the expectancy of the reader which would be the recruiter and the professor.
In this ‘how to…’ we will give you some tips about writing your motivation for your PhD application.
“A motivation letter is perhaps the most important part of the application next to your CV; it provides you with an opportunity to stand out between all other applications”.
Your CV is always accompanied by a motivation or cover letter. This letter should quite simply be the guide to your motivation and a description of the development of your interests and competences that have encouraged you to choose this specific PhD. Especially in a PhD, it is highly appreciated when you show some insight into the proposed project and how your experience and knowledge can bring this project to a quick start and success. Even though a PhD project is a great chance to learn new things and develop new competences, we are always searching for people which already have some experience in the field or related field.
Here you have some crucial points for your letter:
- First of all, take the time to write a specified motivational letter for every application.
- Second; your motivation letter should be in academic English. Your letter and writing ability will be judged on its quality.
- Explain the reasons you choose the studies you are graduated in.
- Describe your decision to apply for a PhD in general.
- Make sure you give a proper description of the development of your interest and competences that have encouraged you to choose this specific PhD.
- During your studies you worked on some projects, which will have given you experience for this specific PhD. Describe them shortly and how this experience is applicable for the proposed PhD.
- Eventually include an overview of what you intend to learn and how this fits in your future plans.
Last but not least: make it concise and to the point while still mentioning the most important things. You should aim for 1 A4 with a normal letter size.
As you may have noticed, a motivation letter explains more about your professional abilities than your CV, but also gives a good idea of how you write, how you structure your story and how well you understand the PhD project. The more personal details, you can better leave out and cover them when you have an actual interview.
Geertje de Vries and Jolanda de Roo