What is a Letter of Motivation (LOM)?
When you apply for a degree programme at a good German university, you will certainly be asked to write a letter of motivation, also called a letter of intent, to express your interest in the programme. Regardless of whether it is a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, this is one of the most important requirements for your application process.
A letter of motivation usually describes your previous education and professional competences, as well as your personal motivation for your desired field of study and the chosen university. A good letter of motivation usually makes the biggest difference between a successful admission or a rejection by the admission committee of the university where you have applied.
German universities do not provide samples for the Letter of Motivation, as they strongly advise and even require that you write it yourself. A few universities, such as the Technical University of Munich, have formulated the requirements quite clearly, but most other German universities only provide applicants with general guidelines for the LOM, such as length in pages or word count.
How to create a good Letter of Motivation?
Create a concept for your Letter of Motivation, then decide on the layout and structure, and finally fine-tune it to fulfil all the requirements.
- Why: In your motivation letter, you should justify why you want to study, how you qualify for your chosen degree programme, and why the university is the best choice for you. Bring these ideas to the point in a way that someone can identify with them and be inspired by you in their thoughts.
- Layout: This is the way your document is formatted and it should show your professionalism. If the university you are applying to does not specify the requirements for LOM, you should limit the document to maximum two pages.
- Structure: This relates to the definition and flow of the letter. An LOM should usually start with a catchy but brief introduction to capture the reader’s attention and lead smoothly into the main content. Do not hesitate to point out your personal advantages in the closing paragraph.
- Fine tuning: Pay particular attention to the use of selected words. Avoid the use of boastful words or complex phrases, as they may distract the admissions officer. Use easy to follow language, be effective and convincing when you present yourself as a stand-out candidate. Please have another person proofread your final draft to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors. This person can also help you add to your merits from a different angle.
9 tips to improve your Letter of Motivation
- Do not just repeat information already given in your CV – This is very important because admissions officers have to read many LOMs from different applicants, which can be repetitive and tiring. You need to be creative, interesting, or bold in your motivation letter to stand out.
- Write based on your chosen degree programme – When writing your motivation letter, make sure that you refer to the program to which you are applying.
- Make a clear and catchy introduction – The introduction of a letter of motivation is the most important part, as this is where you gain the reader’s attention. This is where it is decided whether the admission officer will read you letter all the way through.
- Do not exaggerate – You do not want to come across as desperate or too boastful, as neither will make you a more attractive applicant. You may be excited to share many of your important assets, however in the excitement you may lose focus and mix your various interests. This creates a bad flow for the overall letter.
- Share genuine information about yourself – Do not hesitate to share your interest and feelings about the activities you have done in relation to the programme you are applying for. This shows how sincere and honest you are towards the programme and the university, but also that you identify yourself strongly with the programme.
- Be yourself – Bring out your own voice and self. Do not try to pretend to be someone you are not. These things are easy to see through, and you don’t want the admissions officer to see you as arrogant. You have experienced many interesting things, and you certainly have unique qualities, so think about them and present them accordingly.
- Answer all questions – Make sure you answer any questions you are asked in the guidelines for the LOM from the university. Do not ignore any, because if they are in the prospectus, they must be important to the administration.
- No last-minute work – This point is very important. Take the time to write many drafts until you have brought your own personality to life on paper. If you write your LOM at the last minute, it will probably not be convincing because you forgot important points. It will not have the consistency you need. At least 2 weeks are recommended to create multiple drafts and reach your final version.
- Proofreading – Proofreading is very important. Do not submit your motivation letter until you or a friend has proofread it. After you have corrected the grammatical mistakes, punctuation, or layout issued, give your document to another person to read through. This person may be able to give you a fresh opinion on how to improve what you have written further, and you will have immediate feedback that you can act on if necessary.
Tailor your LOM to your degree
When writing your letter of motivation, you need to know who you want to address and what is the programme you are applying for. Once you have this in mind, you can adapt your letter accordingly.
- Writing a motivation letter for a bachelor’s degree is different from writing a LOM for a PhD. You need to frame your LOM based on the requirements of your specific programme and focus more on your extracurricular experience and academic goals.
- Applying for a master’s degree program. In the introduction, you need to look back at your academic career and first experiences from your previous studies. In your letter of motivation, you should clearly mention relevant achievements during your studies and any professional experience you may have.
- If you are writing a letter of motivation for a PhD programme, give a brief overview of your research work, if you have done any, as well as a summary of your master’s thesis and other relevant projects. You should also state why you chose this particular university and supervisor for your research, why you are interested in the topic and what you already know about it. This shows the supervisor that you have taken the time to research the background of the topic and that you are passionate about it.
To sum up, your letter of motivation should make it clear why you want to go to Germany and where you see yourself afterwards. Maybe you want to get a job in a German company? Be transparent and explain how you want to make the most of your undergraduate or postgraduate studies in Germany.
If you are curious to find out more about what universities expect to see in a good LOM and need step-by-step guidance to create your first draft – check our dedicated video course in the Fintiba Academy.