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1. Put the most important points at the beginning - Then summarise them at the end; selectors are human, they are prone to losing interest just like the rest of us. If you bury the best in the middle of the letter, it might not stand out.
2. Plan - Plan your letter in points and use these to logically write your letter in paragraphs.
3. Future Plans - What future plans do you have for your career and how will getting onto this programme help you to fulfil your career ambitions. Having a plan will show that you have thought about your future and this can demonstrate maturity and foresight and will demolish any doubts that you may be doing this course because you are not sure what else to do or cannot get a job!
4. Why this graduate school? - Think about why you want to apply to that Graduate school; do you have friends there? If you do say so, it shows the panel that you know what you are letting yourself in for and still want to sign up for it!
5. Why this course? - Think about why you want to do that particular course.
6. Do you fulfil the admissions criteria - If not how are you able to compensate?
7. The X Factor - Imagine the course directors and the selection team reading your letter, do you stand out from other candidates? Do you have the X factor? - This could be something as simple as a relevant hobby or interest.
8. Strengths - Examine what strengths you have and how to frame them in your letter of intent.
9. Weaknesses - Examine your weaknesses and how to play them down. If you leave things to the last minute, it demonstrates that you work best under pressure and to strict time constraints. Turn the weaknesses around and make them positive.
10. Be honest - Or as honest as you can be. You don't need to lie, just play down things that you don't want to highlight - for example re-sits, length of time taken to gain qualifications. Do not boast that you have travelled extensively when you have not, you may well come across an expert in tropical fish if you say that you are interested in them when you're not, imagine your embarrassment if you fail to answer a basic question!
11. Let the panel find out about you from your letter - The University wants to know about you, make sure that you give a flavour of your personality by discussing your interests and hobbies with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm can be catching and endearing, if you are passionate about a hobby and have devoted much time and dedication to being the best at it that dedication can bode well for your studies and proves that you are determined and strive for excellence. Even stamp-collecting can demonstrate a certain quality which will be useful in your future studies.
12. Be positive - Assume that the selection panel will want to find out about you, that way you will write your letter more positively because you will already be speaking to a group who want to hear what you say and you will sound more confident.
13. Evaluate your education and training to date - Did you hold down a college job, what does this say about you? Responsible, reliable, loyal and hard working.
14. Who will you ask to act as a referee and what are they likely to say about you? - If you have impressed your undergrad tutors, with your personality and determination, they will be happy to recommend you.
15. What will you bring to the college - Do you excel in sport and will this provide marketing opportunities for your College? What qualities and skills can you bring to the organisation? Are you a team player and will you promote enthusiasm and teamwork within your chosen course.
16. Flattery gets you everywhere - There is nothing more flattering than being a part of an organisation that other people want to join, it bolsters those members sense of pride and self esteem at being part of a winning organisation. Say so!, say that you have always wanted/are desperate to attend such a prestigious school - your future tutors/professors will be flattered!
17. Don't boast - But do state your best qualities and skills clearly and how these have affected your fellow colleagues - for example you enjoy mentoring younger members of your football team and are proud to say that they have excelled this season in their league. There is a fine line between being over confident which is unattractive) and stating your achievements in a confident and realistic way.
18. Get to know yourself - Collect compliments throughout your studies and ask yourself why they are given. Are you an understanding person; are you competitive, do you help other people to achieve their very best work by encouraging them? Equally take on board other's criticism if you feel that it might be justified. Analysing yourself in the face of relationships with others helps you to evaluate your personality and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. This self-evaluation is a vital part of fixing anything you feel could be improved. For example, do you leave things to the last minute rather than planning ahead? Personal growth is only achieved when you learn from your mistakes. Never be afraid to make mistakes; just be afraid that you will keep making the same ones because you haven't learned!
19. Plan again - Your writing will be much more fluent if you firstly plan your letter and then write it in one sitting.
20. Get started - Often starting your letter is worse than actually finishing it. Once you get started you'll find that your letter will flow naturally.
21. Emphasise your determination- You don't have to be a super bright academic to win a place at graduate school, often those applications which stand out will be those which demonstrate capability but a strong determination and the ability to complete the job. We all know people we went to school with who were super-intelligent, but failed exams simply because they were either complacent about their abilities, or did not have the staying power to study consistently. If you have had to work hard for your qualifications, this is as commendable because you have got there in the end through sheer hard work and determination.
22. Aptitudes - Do you have a special aptitude - eg. Foreign language skill, computer literacy, mentoring skills.
23. Research activity - Are you keen to contribute to the research grade of the graduate school? Have you built up experience of quality research in your undergraduate programme? Has your work been published, particularly in a peer-reviewed journal? Much of the funding in academia is based on how research active the school is and graduate schools are keen to exploit opportunities for their professors to develop their students' research skills.
24. Check it for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors before you submit it - If your paper looks sloppy it gives a very poor impression of you.
25. Imagine yourself being interviewed - And write down the answers to possible questions. Remember that what you write in your letter of offer will likely form the basis of a pre-entry interview should you be called for one. The panel will formulate their questions around your letter.
26. Don't give it all away - Give the interview panel just enough to whet their appetite and want to find out more about you. Save something for the interview.
27. Keep it short and to the point - Think of the poor selection team who have to read so many graduate letters and don't waffle for the sake of it! Hold their interest and entertain them with your writing style and enthusiasm, but back it up with examples to illustrate what a superb acquisition to the department you will be. Be succinct, don't ramble!
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