Tips on writing a persuasive motivation letter

The Academic Writing Center team gives advice on how to write an effective motivation letter

Motivation letters are crucial for the selection process in many institutions.Easy and familiar at first glance, motivation letters can be a real nightmare. How do you make them stand out and meet all the criteria within the given word limit?

Based on our selection experience at the Academic Writing Center, we’ve made up a list of tips on how to write a winning motivation letter and achieve your ultimate goal. These tips will be mostly useful for those people who’d like to enroll for a writing course at the AWC, but they are also applicable to any motivation letter across all disciplines and institutions.

  1. Do your homework. Before you tackle any motivation letter regardless of its purpose — a postdoc position or a master’s degree — find out as much as possible about the program, its objectives, teachers, and everything else there is to find out. Then, analyze your needs and compare them with what the program is offering. Is this what you’re looking for? Then make sure to state in your letter clearly what aspects have a particular meaning to you.

All in all, a motivation letter can be a challenge, but you can overcome it if you keep in mind all those tips and write thoughtfully.

If you need additional help, the AWC provides seminars on writing persuasive cover letters and motivational letters. The schedule is posted on and feel free to email with any questions or concerns.

Here are some useful links for further reading:

1. How to write a cover letter, Harvard Business Review

2. How to write a cover letter people will actually read, New York Times

3. Resumes and cover letters, Harvard Extension School

4. How to write a scholarship motivation letter, Study Portals

The Academic Writing Center at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow, provides writing support to everyone involved in research.

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