Written By - Derick de Souza

Edited By Arlene Ward

Review & Contribution By Erik L. Cato

When applying to grad schools, applicants are customarily asked for either a Personal StatementStatement of PurposeRésumé, or Curriculum Vitae (CV). But there is one other document some schools require to be submitted – the Letter of Intent (also known as Letter of Interest). The Letter of Intent for graduate school is, in its essence, an intellectual autobiography that chronicles the series of events and experiences in a student’s academic life that have motivated them to pursue higher education. Thus, this statement of interest in graduate school focuses on a student’s academic life, addressing questions such as why, where, and with whom, and answers the same questions from a future perspective.

Important: It is worth noting that each graduate school and/or program may have its independent and unique requirements for a Letter of Intent. The contents, suggestions, and opinions in this article can only serve as guidelines. Therefore, students are advised to check for the school’s exact requirements, including specific content, format, sections, length, etc.

Letter of Intent for Graduate School

Table Of Contents

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What is a Letter of Intent for Graduate School

So, what exactly is a Letter of Intent for graduate school, why is it important, and how does one go about writing a good Letter of Intent? To be succinct and to the point, a Letter of Intent is largely a covering letter for an application to grad school. This formal letter focuses on who the applicant is, why they are applying to the program, and why the college should consider the applicant for admission. In many ways, a Letter of Intent is akin to a Statement of Purpose, only shorter. It conveys the students’ academic background, purpose or Intent, and academic and career goals, thus making it a very important document.

To write a good letter of Intent, one must start with brainstorming and collecting data. Next, students should read the prospectus or program guide in detail and check to see if the program they wish to apply to conforms to their career objectives. 

Important: Before preparing a Letter of Intent, students must always improve their GRE and GMAT scores through enough time and study. Good, standardized test scores are crucial for admission. A Letter of Intent is a valuable addition to an application as one of the many admission requirements and not an eligibility criterion.

Graduate School Letter of Intent Template

A graduate school letter of the Intent template must have a neat, clean, and well-spaced layout, free from distracting elements and clutter. The main sections of the Letter of Intent should be covered in the order of:

  1. A Header
  2. Date Stamp
  3. Addressee Information
  4. A Brief Greeting
  5. Introduction or Opening Paragraph
  6. 2 to 3 Content or Main Paragraphs
  7. Conclusion or Closing Paragraph
  8. Name and/or Signature
  9. A Footer (optional)

These sections and elements make for a good template. But such a template should also pay attention to the graduate school Letter of Intent format, which factors the correct way to write and stylize the document, with space, color, font, size, and more.

Graduate School Letter of Intent Format

Paying equal attention to the formatting of a Letter of Intent is highly advisable, as a good format immediately draws the reader’s attention and makes for a compelling read. Formatting has much to do with how the letter’s content is written (expounded on in the next section) and also involves properly presenting such content.

Students will do well to keep the following content and stylizing points in mind when formatting their Letter of Intent:

  1. Content:
    • Be as straightforward as possible.
    • Use active, not passive voice.
    • Be accurate and precise.
    • Use transitions to connect each paragraph to the one before it.
    • Limit the number of words to between 300 and 450 (unless specified otherwise).
    • Restrict the number of pages to a maximum of 2 (unless specified otherwise).
  2. Style:
    • Use a clear, simple, and legible official/business font.
    • Keep the font size between 10 and 13pts., depending on the font.
    • Try spacing lines by 1.2pts., if single line spacing seems inadequate.
    • Avoid bold colors in the header and elsewhere.
    • Do not use italics unless it is necessary to emphasize something.
    • Maintain reasonable and equal margins all around the document.

Section of a Letter of Intent

A good template generally contains the many different sections that make up a Letter of Intent along with the correct format. Each of these sections is important and needs to convey pertinent information to the reader. The sections listed below are typically found in a classic Letter of Intent:

  1. A Header – The header must contain the writer’s full name, communication address, and contact information (phone and email). A line break should separate all these elements.
  2. Date Stamp – The date stamp is the date on which the Letter of Intent is being mailed or submitted.
  3. Addressee Information – The addressee is the recipient’s name and address.
  4. A Brief Greeting – The Brief Greetings is merely a formal greeting or salutation for the recipient, drawing their attention.
  5. Introduction or Opening Paragraph – The Introduction opens the letter and introduces the writer to the reader with the reasons for writing the letter.
  6. 2 to 3 Content or Main Paragraphs – The Content section is where the student highlights why they are a good fit for the college & program and vice versa.
  7. Conclusion or Closing Paragraph – The Conclusion generally wraps up the letter by highlighting the value-addition of the program for the student and a word of thanks.
  8. Name and/or Signature – The name of the student should go in this section and in full.
  9. A Footer (optional) – A Footer can contain the name, subject, and page number.

How to write the Best Letter of Intent for Graduate School

There are largely two ways of writing a Letter of Intent, one keeping it formal – emphasizing specific achievements about the application and one’s goals, and the other keeping it personal – with emphasis on who one is and why one is committed to completing grad school. However, irrespective of the chosen style, it is important to keep in mind the style, format, and nuances of a letter and invoke all that was learned throughout the academic years about effective letter writing.

Writing the best Letter of Intent for graduate school must always be short, precise, concise, and informative and contain all the expected and essential elements. It is also best to avoid generalizations and clichés, focusing instead on one’s academic and career objectives. Students should also not blow their trumpet about being diligent, hard-working, and conscientious, which may be construed as a waste of space and time. Instead, it would be prudent to get straight to the point and convey to the reader only pertinent information to the application. Writers should also refrain from including extraneous material and points that do not effectively communicate the letter’s object.

Aside from these crucial observations and suggestions, here are some simple steps to writing a Letter of Intent:

(a) Collect information from the student prospectus, program guide, or college website.

(b) Analyse this information to see if the program in question is suitable and covers all career objectives.

(c) Brainstorm and scribble points that could potentially make their way into the Letter of Intent.

(d) Prepare a template with simple pointers and start writing the first draft.

(e) Review the draft, editing and making changes as necessary.

(f) Write the second draft and review it for spelling errors, grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, and typos.

(g) Show this second draft to at least 2 or 3 prominent people within the family or at school, preferably to those whose English is strong and have at least some experience writing similar documents.

(h) Make changes and corrections based on the feedback received on the second draft.

(i) Prepare the final Letter of Intent and review it one last time.

(j) Print the Letter of Intent on crisp, crease-free sheets of white paper and do not fold them. If the school requires the document to be submitted online, create a PDF (Portable Document Format) version, and upload it as instructed.

Graduate School Letter of Intent Example

Based on all that has been explained in prior sections of this article, a Sample Letter of Intent for graduate school becomes easier to write. This sample letter can also serve as a preliminary template for students to write their first draft.

Below is a graduate school letter of Intent example that is entirely fictional and more from a personal approach than a formal one. Students can use this as a guide or as a reference to get started with writing their completely original Letter of Intent:

< The Applicant >

< My Communication Address >

< My Phone Number & Email Address >

< Today’s Date >

Attention: Mr. Tim Burton, Graduate Admissions Committee, The University

Dear Mr. Burton,

Opening Paragraph: A brief introduction and the reason/s for pursuing graduate study.

I am applying for the Fall 2024 Master of Art Therapy graduate program at The University. My recent discovery of exemplary work in art and psychology, done by the staff and alumni, has inspired and convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt that pursuing my graduate studies at The University meets my personal, academic, and professional objectives.

Main Paragraphs: Explain why the field was chosen. Mention academic, professional, or volunteer background and how they may have led you to your interest in obtaining graduate education.

I completed my formal education at The School in 2020 and have strived to maintain a good academic track record throughout, right up to my Bachelor’s in Psychology. Ever since my early childhood, I showed a leaning towards art and discovered how it helped me express myself and balance my emotions, even under trying circumstances. As I grew up, I observed that others around me took to various forms of expression – dance, music, pottery, sculpting, and painting – and these seemed to do the same for them, what art did for me. This realization kindled my interest in the psychology behind art, and it was then that I decided that Art Therapy is my calling.

With my newfound passion, I used my summer and winter breaks in the recent bygone years to work with volunteer groups that catered to children with disabilities or senior citizens who feared their sunset years. I taught them to sketch, draw, and paint, and no matter how good or bad they were at it, they showed a marked improvement in their mental health and emotional wellbeing. In July 2019, I was awarded the ‘Most Valuable Volunteer’ by The Charitable Organization, based on feedback from The Old Age Home residents. I know I have a long way to go before I can impact society, but graduate studies in Art Therapy at The University, I am sure, are certain to teach me all I need, to change and touch the lives of many.

Closing Paragraph: Answer the question – why you? And mention how the graduate program and/or college will assist in reaching goals.

I am certain that my qualification in psychology and my passion for art can be of value to The University, the Master of Art Therapy graduate program, faculty, and student. And in turn, they will fuel my desire to acquire deeper knowledge, develop new skills, and help me drive my research in inventing more effective therapies and techniques for disadvantaged people. In closing, I would like you to consider me for admission to the Master of Art Therapy program, commencing in the Fall of 2024. I would deem it a privilege and an honor to be part of The University. Sincerely, The Applicant.

FAQs about Letter of Intent for Graduate School

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Statement of Intent?

A Statement of Intent, also known as a Letter of Intent, or Letter of Interest, is largely a covering letter to a grad school application that chronicles a student’s academic life – outlining the series of events and experiences that led to their desire to pursue higher education.

How to write a letter of Intent for grad school?

How to start a letter of Intent?

How long should a letter of Intent be?

How to format a letter of Intent?

How to address a letter of Intent?

How to end a letter of Intent?

Additional Resources for writing Letter of Intent for Graduate School

A Letter of Intent could be the first impression a student makes on the admissions committee. It is therefore important to present it well and provide the information that is asked for. A good template and format, coupled with strong content, will shape a well-written letter. Here are a few resources that might help students shrug off some of the anxiety in writing a Letter of Intent for graduate school and craft a successful one:

  1. eForms eForms has a large collection of Letter of Intent templates for Dental Schools, Graduate Schools, Medical Schools, MBA programs, teaching jobs, and more.
  2. SampleTemplates SampleTemplates claims to have 53+ Letter of Intent templates and examples, of which some are free.

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