How to Write a Motivation Letter (With Tips and Examples)
Updated July 31, 2023
Motivation letters can be used when applying for admission to a college or university, scholarships or volunteer opportunities. In this article, we discuss how to write a motivation letter and provide some examples to help you craft your own.
What is a motivation letter?
A motivation letter is a personal document detailing your professional skills and reasons for applying for a course of study, a scholarship or a volunteer job. This letter accompanies your application and supporting documents, such as a transcript of your grades or a resume. A motivation letter is sometimes called a "statement of purpose" or a "motivational letter."
Motivation letters are not commonly used for paid job applications, which are typically accompanied by cover letters. A cover letter is an introduction to your resume and gives examples of how your job experience matches the opening you're applying for, while a motivation letter focuses more on your personal story and details your interests, personality and motives for applying for a program.
How to write a motivation letter
Writing a good motivation letter takes time, so make sure you methodically work through the steps to make yours the best possible. Allowing plenty of time to write your motivation letter ensures you include all the necessary content and follow each important step, including the following:
Write an outline.
Write an introduction.
Expand your outline for your body.
Conclude your motivation letter.
Proofread your motivation letter.
1. Write an outline
Write a point-form outline noting the content of your motivation letter and its order. Write points covering the following topics:
Why you want to study the course or volunteer with the program
Your skills or qualities that will benefit the school or nonprofit
Why you are interested in the school or nonprofit organization
Think critically about whether you are including all relevant details. A motivation letter for a Ph.D. program will need more details about your experiences and specific future plans than a motivation letter for a bachelor's program, for example. Cross-reference your outline with information from the school or nonprofit organization to show you have the qualities and qualifications they are looking for. Assess your format and structure and determine whether moving points around would create a more logical flow.
Revise your outline until you are satisfied with it. You can reference your completed outline when writing your polished motivation letter to stay on track.
2. Write an introduction
Write an introduction that introduces yourself to the recipient. Address your recipient by name, if possible, to give your motivation letter a personal touch. Your introduction should capture your recipient's attention and encourage them to read on, so include details about your achievements in this section.
3. Expand your outline for your body
Expand the points in your outline to form your motivation letter's body. Take a new paragraph for every new topic. Remember, your motivation letter aims to convince your recipient of your value, so use compelling facts to be persuasive.
4. Conclude your motivation letter
Write a conclusion to your motivation letter that summarizes your goal and leaves a positive final impression. You should also thank your recipient for considering your application and encourage them to contact you if they have any questions.
5. Proofread your motivation letter
Proofread your motivation letter to make it more concise and professional. Correct any spelling and grammatical errors and awkward phrasing. Edit information already listed in your application form or resume to ensure your motivation letter contains only unique information.
You may need to proofread your motivation letter several times to identify all problem areas. If time permits, complete this step two days or more after writing your motivation letter as time away from your work allows you to view it more objectively. To help ensure your letter has professional grammar and spelling, ask a trusted friend or family member to proofread your motivation letter after you.
Read more: How To Write a Motivation Letter in 4 Steps
Tips for writing a motivation letter
Following these tips can help make your motivation letters stand out and convince decision-makers to consider your application further.
Follow any guidelines. Follow any formatting, length and content guidelines provided by your prospective school or nonprofit. If the organization does not provide any details, write approximately 1/2 to one page of text with a basic 12-point font, such as Times New Roman or Arial.
Write with personality. Write in a natural voice that reflects how you would speak to your recipient if they were in a room with you. Include interesting details that help your motivation letter stand out from others. Humor can be misinterpreted, so opt for a more serious tone.
Use accessible language. Identify any unnecessarily complex terms or jargon when you are proofreading and replace them with simpler words. Write short, active sentences that cannot be misinterpreted.
Focus on your strengths. Write about your personal strengths, rather than your challenges or limitations. Writing about your strengths helps the recipients of your motivation letters understand your value to their organization and keeps your letter's tone positive.
Motivation letter template
Below is a sample motivation letter template. You can customize this template based on your circumstances:
Dear Mr/Ms. [recipient's surname],
My name is [your name] and I am a [position/qualification/area of study]. I am writing to apply for a [scholarship/volunteer opportunity/place] at [name of organization].
I would love to [study/volunteer] with you because [reasons for wanting to study course or volunteer]. I am especially interested in your [school/nonprofit] because [reasons for choosing a particular organization].
I feel I would be an asset to your organization because I am [list of positive qualities]. I am also skilled in [list of positive skills] which I developed through [experiences or courses that taught you skills].
In conclusion, I hope to get the opportunity to [study/volunteer] with you at [name of organization]. Thank you for taking the time to review my application. Please contact me at [preferred contact details] if you have any questions for me. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
This template provides space for the basic information your motivation letter requires. However, the best motivation letters have a personal touch. Customize this template by adding extra details and taking several sentences to explain your reasons for writing and personal assets. Personal anecdotes can help your motivation letter stand out.
Related: Cover Letter Samples and Templates
Motivation letter examples
Here are some examples of motivation letters that could accompany university and volunteer job applications. You can use a motivation letter sample as a guide for your own letters by substituting your own details.
College application motivation letter example
Scholarship application motivation letter example
Volunteer motivation letter example
College application motivation letter example
Dear Mr. Thomas,
My name is Stephanie Ruiz, and I am a high school student at Seattle City High School with a keen interest in computer studies and visual art. I am writing to apply for the multimedia design and communication degree at Seattle University.
I hope to become a web designer, so I would like to learn more about multimedia design. I feel your course would help me understand the digital design process and the way websites and their visual imagery can help businesses present images to consumers.
I love the way different colors and images can evoke emotions in viewers. I enjoy experimenting with the power of color and imagery and think I have a natural creative flair. I am confident that I will be able to apply this flair to new projects and increase my design abilities at your school.
I respect Seattle University's reputation for academic and sporting excellence. I appreciate that yours is a school that encourages students to achieve their potential both inside and outside the classroom. As a social person who has participated in several extracurricular activities, including the school band and softball team, I feel my diverse interests would make me a great fit for your school.
Studying at your school would help me develop my aptitude for design while having fun, whether it is on the sporting field or in another arena. I am open to whatever experiences life at Seattle University would bring me and hope I could achieve them through your multimedia design and communication degree. Thank you very much for considering my request. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about my application.
Scholarship application motivation letter example
Dear Mr. Bradman,
My name is Zoe Hooper, and I am writing to show my interest in a scholarship for your Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. I have a passion for helping people, and I hope my financial limitations will not hold me back from harnessing this passion in my career.
I grew up in a lower-income family with a single mother who worked three jobs to provide for my brothers and me. My mother taught me the value of hard work and the importance of taking care of others who cannot take care of themselves. She also stressed the importance of education to us, teaching us that it would help us access an easier life. Her encouragement along with my own determination helped me earn some of the best grades in my high school class.
As my mother worked long hours, I spent a lot of time caring for my youngest brother who has cerebral palsy. I feel the time I spent caring for him sparked an interest in nursing. I learned to be compassionate and patient and was rewarded by his smiles. I hope to make my own patients smile in the face of their own health concerns in the future.
I feel my natural work ethic and drive to succeed would make me an asset to Los Angeles University. I know your school has an excellent nursing program, and feel it would give me the perfect environment to gain the degree I need to secure my dream job and give back to the community. Rest assured that I would make the most of the scholarship opportunity and make you and my mother proud.
I am very grateful for the time you have taken to consider my application and look forward to hearing from you soon. Please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions about my application.
Volunteer motivation letter example
Dear Ms. Carnaby,
My name is Tony Iyer, and I am a veterinary science student at Washington University. I am responding to the call for volunteers posted on the All Paws Animal Shelter website. This opportunity attracted me because I have a natural passion for animal welfare, which I am furthering in my studies.
I grew up around animals living on a farm in rural Wyoming. During this time, I was involved in many aspects of animal care, including training our dogs, grooming our horses and milking cows. I loved spending time with our animals and discovered how wonderful their companionship can be. I also learned the importance of the less glamorous sides of animal care, including cleaning waste and pens to keep our creatures comfortable.
Through my veterinary science studies, I have learned even more about animal care, including how to diagnose and treat animal diseases and how to help animals give birth. I believe these skills, along with the experience I acquired on the farm, would be invaluable to you at All Paws Animal Shelter. I also believe I could learn a lot more to complement my schooling at your organization.
I am especially interested in working at All Paws Animal Shelter as you accept a diverse range of animals. I also appreciate your shelter's no-kill policy and commitment to ongoing care for senior animals. These policies align with my own belief that all animals deserve the chance to live a long life and find a forever home, no matter how long that takes.
In conclusion, I feel I would be an asset to All Paws Animal Shelter and hope you will accept my application for volunteer work. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about my application.
Frequently asked questions
What's the difference between a motivation letter and a cover letter?
A motivation letter is most often used for volunteer opportunities, scholarships and academic applications. A cover letter is typically for work applications or promotions. When you write either of these letters, it's important to understand the difference between the audiences for each and to customize the letter for the specific position, scholarship or academic institution.
Where do you submit a motivation letter?
This depends on the requirements of the recipient. Typically, you submit this letter with the other documentation required by the recipient. Sometimes, you may also email the letter to the recipient upon request. It's very rare that you give the letter directly to the recipient, but having a physical copy can help if they request it later in the application process by mail or in-person delivery.
Is a motivation letter a requirement?
A motivation letter may not be a requirement for some applications, but this depends on the program and recipient. Research the requirements and then determine whether a motivation letter is part of the preferred documentation. Even though it may not be a requirement, if it's listed in the additional or optional documents, create a letter and submit it as part of your application.
Explore more articles
- 22 Great Second Careers To Consider (With Salaries)
- How To Become a Business Executive in 7 Steps (Plus Skills)
- 15 Six-Figure Jobs You Can Do From Home
- 20 Jobs You Can Get With a Civil Engineering Degree
- How To Become a Firefighter in Florida: A Step-By-Step Guide
- 10 Bible Degree Careers To Consider Pursuing
- How To Become a Corporate Lawyer in 8 Steps
- 8 Easy Ways To Earn Extra Money From Home
- What Is a Public Information Officer? (With Job Duties and Skills)
- Digital Creator vs. Content Creator: What's the Difference?
- 12 Pros and Cons of Being a Tanker Truck Driver
- 15 Types of Consulting (And How To Choose Your Specialty)