Motivation Letter Writing Guide + Examples for 2020
Writing a motivational letter can be nerve-wracking.
When presented with the question of “Why would you like to be part of this organization?” you find yourself staring at a blank page, thinking of how to correctly word “I'm passionate about going to college so I don’t starve to death.”
Two hours and three coffees in, you’ve scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed (twice), watched one episode of the last season of Game of Thrones, sent angry tweets to its creators, and donated for the knee surgery of two dogs. You go back to your open Word doc and you have only managed to write: “This organization seems like fun” or “I’ll totally be a great fit”.
You know you are not this generic or basic. You’re a capable guy or gal who has a lot to offer and there are genuine reasons behind your decision to apply.
It’s just hard to put it into words… And we get that!
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of creating a motivation letter that gets you accepted anywhere.
We're Going to Cover:
- What a Motivational Letter Is (And Why It Matters)
- How to Structure a Motivational Letter
- How to Write a Motivational Letter [+Some Helpful Tips to Get Those Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the Paper]
- How (and Why) to Create a Motivational Letter With Novorésumé
What is a Motivational Letter and Why it Matters?
A motivational letter is a one-page letter that’s used to describe why you are the perfect candidate for a certain position. It is usually attached to your resume.
You are required to write a motivational letter in these 4 specific scenarios...
- You are applying to get admitted to an educational program at a college or university (undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate).
- You are applying to work at a non-profit organization.
- You are applying as a volunteer in an organization.
- You’re applying for an internship in a company.
The motivational letter shouldn’t be confused with a cover letter, the purpose of which is to highlight how specific information on your resume matches a job opening. Think of a cover letter as the introduction to your resume for a hiring manager and your motivational letter as the powerful closing sales pitch for a university or non-profit.
So why exactly does the motivational letter matter? You’re a doer more than a talker: you’ve listed everything there is to know about you on your resume. That should be enough, right? Wrong!
All organizations are looking for people who genuinely want to be there and are excited about what they do. The intent should be your driving motivation!
Writing a good motivational letter can be an absolute game-changer. It can provide a boost for your resume, but also make up for lacking required skills.
How to Structure a Motivational Letter
A good motivational letter is a one-pager where you introduce yourself, your story, and show your interest in the position or organization you are applying to.
There are two main ways to structure your motivational letter:
- Using the classic 3 main paragraphs structure, where your motivational letter has the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.
- Using the 5-7 paragraph structure, where you divide your main body paragraph into smaller 1-3 sentence paragraphs according to the main points.
Now, which one do YOU go for? The rule of thumb is if you want to be more factual and to the point, go for the 7-paragraph structure. This way, you can use each body paragraph to discuss specific achievements or points.
If, on the other hand, you’re going for a more story-telling approach, you’d go for the 3 paragraph option, so as not to break the flow of the story.
The Structure of a Motivational Letter
Whichever structure you go for, it should consist of 3 main parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion. Here’s what to include in each one:
Introduction: A short, engaging pitch about yourself and why you are applying. Here, you can include:
- Personal information. Who are you and what do you do?
- What are you applying for? Where?
- An intro to the bulk of your essay. Mention the general reason on why you’re applying, and then deep-dive in the bulk of your motivational letter.
And of course, don’t forget to mention contact information on top.
To: School/Organization Name
First Name Last Name
Relevant Social Media (LinkedIn, Quora, GitHub, etc.)
Example of Introduction for Motivational Letter
Dear [Name of The Contact Person],
My name is [Your name] and I would like to express my interest in applying for the Doctoral program in political science at [University Name]. I’ve always dreamed of becoming a politician and helping give back to my country, and I believe that a Ph.D. in politics from [University Name] would set me miles ahead to reaching my goal.
Body of the Motivational Letter: this is the main bulk of your motivational letter. This is where you really sell yourself, mentioning stories behind your achievements, skills, and passion for whatever you’re applying for.
Try to be as factual as possible - anyone that frequently reads motivational letters can tell made-up stories from the real ones. When possible, you can also use metrics to back up your qualifications.
Things You Can Mention in Your Motivational Letter:
- My passion for ______ started when ______.
- I want to ______ because ______.
- I have been part of _________ for ___ months/years. It’s the best thing for me because _______.
- I remember once when I ________, which made me realize that I _______.
- _______ resonates with me because _________.
- What distinguishes me from my peers is __________.
Here’s a Practical Example:
I developed my passion for Online Marketing during my internship at [company name]. Working in a small startup allowed me to get surface-level experience in most digital marketing channels. Now, I would like to deep-dive and gain advanced know-how by attending the [university name] program in Digital Marketing.
Finally, you can wrap up the motivational letter and send it in. In this section, you can:
- Briefly summarize your main points - “I believe I’d be a good fit for the program because of __________”
- Mention your overarching goal - “I’d love to be a part of _______, as it would allow me to ___________.”
- Thank the reader and conclude the motivational letter
Now that you know how to structure a motivational letter, let’s move on to the contents!
How to Write a Motivational Letter
So how do you write a motivational letter that stands out from the pool of applicants? The way to avoid generalizations and add depth to your motivational letter is by tailoring it to the specific organization and program/position you are applying to:
- When writing a motivational letter, you want to make sure you know what and where you are applying to. Find out who is in charge of deciding your fate and address them directly in your opening remarks as Dear Mrs. Smith.
- Look at the program requirements and the institution’s website. Find out the top three requirements for the position and explain how you are the best candidate.
- Demonstrate that you share the organization’s values or are exceptionally qualified through a short story or personal examples. Be specific.
- Your motivational letter should demonstrate that you really want to be there! There is a fine line between pleading and showing intelligent interest while also selling yourself. State specific reasons, demonstrate knowledge and express passion for applying to the institution or organization without showing off or begging.
- DO NOT LIE! If you write anything remotely untrue, your reader will sense it. Unconsciously, we inflate feelings and ideas when we lie. If you tell a fake story or inflate your excitement or achievements, you will be put into the “lying Pinnochio pile”. Consider your case rested and your application denied.
Questions to Answer in Your Motivational Letter [+Possible Answers]
What attracted you to this specific organization or program?
- I would love to live in [location of organization], because ________.
- It is my dream to be part of [name of program], because _________.
What are the values the institution is based on and how do you share them?
- The values [name of institution] is based on are: [three general values stated on their website]. I have demonstrated _____ because I have ______ especially in ______. I also practice ______ in my professional or working life by __________.
What kind of applicants are usually admitted to the program and why do you fulfill the requirements?
- Requirement: Minimum 2 years of volunteering experience
I volunteered in Africa for three years. It’s one of my most fulfilling experiences because I am passionate about helping others and came out a better person. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
- Requirement: Passionate about research
I would pick a sleepless night conducting research instead of a night out anytime. I spend most of my mornings reading the last edition of the Journal of Marketing. I have worked on three separate research studies during my time at Colorado University.
- Requirement: 3,80 GPA
Achieving a Magna Cum Laude required a lot of hard work and dedication, but education has been my biggest passion in life, so there was more joy than pain in the process!
Answer some/all of these questions in a compelling way that’s true to you and your experience, then turn them into a cohesive text.
An Example of a Great Motivational Letter
We’ll demonstrate how to write an awesome and inspiring motivational letter through Jane’s letter to the admissions team of Harvard University below. She is applying for a Ph.D. in the department of Political Science.
The general requirements are: being research inclined, a demonstrated passion for Politics, and an above average performance during undergraduate studies.
The values of the university are integrity, education, respect, and accountability.
She’s using the three paragraph structuring method.
You can see how Jane highlights through personal stories:
- That she knows the history of the university and shares the same values
- That she’s genuinely excited and passionate about the program and the school
- What her qualifications are and how they’ll be a great fit for the program
- What she hopes to achieve if given the opportunity to study at Harvard
The same rules and spirit apply to non-university related motivational letters as well.
You can easily notice that Jane has essentially given a personal story of all his qualifications. After reading this letter, the admissions team will feel like they know Jane, and this is what you should also aim to do: communicate who you are through highlighting your story tailored to the institution and program you are applying for.
How (and why) to Create a Motivational Letter with Novorésumé
Now that you know how to write a motivational letter, you can decide on how it looks.
A black and white letter sheet with Times New Roman, 12-pt font size might be great for a formal document, but it does not make you stand out in the pile of grey applications.
How can you appear professional without being boring? Novorésumé's motivational letter templates and intuitive editor add the tinge of personality that you’d need to stand out from the rest.
So, let’s sum up everything we’ve covered in this post:
- A motivational letter is a formal letter which you need to write if you’re applying for university/college admissions, a non-profit, or a volunteering institution. Job applications usually require a cover letter instead.
- There are two ways to structure a motivational letter: in three paragraphs (introduction, body, conclusion) or in 5-7 paragraphs (where each paragraph highlights a different point).
- Introduce yourself and your intent in the introduction, describe and highlight your experiences in the body, and thank the reader for his/her consideration in the conclusion.
- Do your research, show genuine interest, and never, ever lie.
- If you want your motivational letter to stand out, Novorésumé takes the cake!
A motivational letter is always attached to a resume. Want to also make that stand out from the rest?
Read our guide on how to create an impressive resume and submit it with your awesome motivational letter to get accepted anywhere!
Our motivation letter templates are created to mirror the resume templates and CV templates, which is critical when creating a job application. Choosing the same templates, fonts, colors will improve your personal brand and increase your chances of being called for an interview.