When required, the motivation letter, or the letter of intent, as it is sometimes called, can seem like an unnecessary challenge for applying to a school. Depending on whether the program faculty provides specific details of what they are looking for in the letter or, as is more frequently the case, if they have left it up to the prospective student, it is important to recognize that either way it comes with its own advantage and disadvantage.
Too specific, and you may miss out on a chance to demonstrate your creativity, but too open-ended and you risk going in the opposite direction of what the staff is looking for. Therefore, many students express not knowing what exactly it is they are supposed to write about.
Adding to the stress, students who wish to study abroad have additional concerns about writing effectively for an international audience.
However, the good news is that there are some general characteristics international higher education recruiters are looking for when considering potential new, international students.
Along with some common points that should be made no matter where you are sending your motivation letter (qualifications, goals, interests/passions related to your studies), there are also some important details to add when applying to schools abroad.
Why Do You Want to Study Abroad?
Of course, the first question you should be prepared to explain is the reason why you want to study abroad and not in your home country. It may seem obvious, but your reasons for studying abroad make a big difference to universities.
- I just wanted to get out of my country.
- I want to meet and marry someone “international.”
- My friend tried it, and it sounded fun.
- I anticipate developing both personally and professionally from an international experience.
- I have a deep interest in the culture, history, and language of the country, which I am excited to continue to explore and experience.
- As someone who prides themselves on their ability to communicate across cultures, I believe I would be the perfect fit for a program that incorporates students from around the globe.
By showing universities that you have taken your choice to study abroad seriously, you also show them that you are ready to take your education seriously.
Do You Have Any Experience Abroad Already?
When selecting international students, most recruiters are aware that it is not the right experience for everyone. By selecting someone who has no experience being a far distance from home, universities run the risk of selecting someone who is not ready to live abroad and may quit the program soon after it begins.
- I have never travelled or lived abroad, but I think I will like it.
- Every time I have travelled it was a bad experience, but I’m hoping this time will be different.
- Although I have never lived or studied abroad before, I love to travel and experience new cultures, and therefore, I’m looking for an opportunity to expand my horizons while doing something I love.
- Although I have never been abroad, I have done a lot of research to make sure this country is the right match for me. I also look forward to the challenge of living and studying independently abroad, which I am sure I am ready to handle.
Universities don’t expect that everyone applying to an international program has had study abroad experience before. However, by letting them know you are up for the challenges that may arise, you set yourself apart from other students who may choose to ignore the subject entirely.
Why is Your Personality Conducive to Study Abroad?
Naturally, some people are better suited for the experience of living and studying abroad. However, it may be for different reasons than you think.
- I’m always the life of the party or the loudest in the room, so I know I will make friends easily.
- I plan on keeping to myself so that I will not upset or offend anyone.
- I am the kind of person who gets along well with others due to being open and considerate of people and their beliefs.
- Above all else, I pride myself on my cultural sensitivity when I find myself in the company of others who do not share a similar background as mine.
Chances are that you will not be the only international student in your program. Therefore, it’s important to demonstrate that you get along well with others. Note that this is not the same as saying you are the most social or friendly. Whether you are intro- or extroverted, recruiters just want to know you are capable of maturely handling multicultural interactions.
That being said, with these improvements to your motivation letter, you are increasing your chances of getting noticed by international universities.
So, now that your study aborad essay is complete, it's time to start thinking about where it is you want to go! Whether you want to study under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, next to Big Ben in London, or you're still not sure, we're here to help!