Academic Cover letters – Students

One of those difficult parts of any PhD application or scholarship is the terrible and known monster “Cover Letter Maleficous”. Seems easy to write, at first; but it is quite important, as many recruiters don’t check your CV or any other files you may attach, if it is not convincing.

There is a reason for all of this. They are going to invest some (good) money and they want to be sure that it is well invested. Academia looks for talent, looks for people that can produce and enrich their academic capital, and so they want to be sure that you are highly motivated and you are self-driven. This last point is important, remember that even you have great PhD supervisors, they have plenty of things to do, and sometimes, you are the least of their worries…. sad, but true. Being, autonomous, is important for working in this competitive market, but getting in is difficult!

Today I was applying for a scholarship, and I had to face that horrible monster, the one we cannot mention: Cover Letter. I’ve made a quick research in order to find some samples, some instructions, and I’ve noticed a huge gap between universities, and areas. American letters are more extense, Europeans are more concise, Australians are kind of professional but still focused on a few points:

-Who you are?

-Why you apply?

-What can you offer?

-Are you what they look for?

Surfing on the internet I’ve found this interesting doc from the Grad. College of Illinois. Have a look!



On the High Education Network blog from The Guardian, we can find 10 very valuable pieces of advice that might help to kill the monster! On their twitter account, you might find other resources. A recent twit called my attention:

I kind of like this sample from Claremont Graduate University, but I wonder if it is not too much long for the European standards.

I guess that the keys for a good letter are:

-Good grammar! Good phrasing!

-An idea per paragraph.

+Think on your reader. Write to and for your reader. Don’t use excessive or unnecessary jargon.

+You are a professional, no need to be presumptuous!

+Show the best of you, but don’t exaggerate, it’s easy to catch!

+Sell your work, but leave enough room to improvements, advances and evolution. That’s why you are applying!

+Keep open and positive.

Not easy, but before anything… try to better understand who is going to read your letter, then do it! Knowing the enemy is half the battle.

Good luck with your letters now!



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