How to Write a Letter of Intent for Graduate School

By Mary Paulet , last updated December 31, 2011

Writing a letter of intent for graduate school is a very important task for any perspective graduate student. All Master's and PhD programs are considered graduate programs. Writing a good letter of intent has become even more important as more applicants are applying for fewer spots. Applicants should take the writing of their letter of intent very seriously. While all schools may have certain differences in what they prefer in this letter, following a few universal guidelines will give the applicant a better chance of getting accepted into the graduate program of their dreams. An admissions committee, consisting of faculty members in the department that the applicant is applying to, has the responsibility to review letters of intent. The writing process for a letter of intent is similar to other expository compositions. Writing a successful letter of intent requires following a three part process. This is similar to writing other types of collegiate essays. Every letter of intent should include an introduction, body, and conclusion.


This paragraph serves a purpose very much like the introduction to any collegiate essay. Not surprisingly, the purpose is to introduce the topic and to give the admissions committee a preview of what the essay will consist of. The first thing an applicant should do, preferably before beginning the essay, is to sit down and really think about what he or she wants to say. Make the introduction clear and concise. State what program the application is for. Specify if the intended degree is a Master’s or Doctoral Degree. End the introduction with a brief discussion of why you are applying to that specific program.


This section can greatly vary in length. Use the body to expand upon your reasons for applying to the graduate program. Focus on academic related qualifications. Discuss what university you went to and which major you studied in your undergraduate career. Mention any major research projects and undergraduate theses written. Discuss any original research undertaken or any work conducted in consultation with professors. If you have experience teaching or grading collegiate courses, include this. If you have worked with or discussed your application with any faculty at the university you are applying to, be sure to mention this. Discuss what intended emphasis of study will be perused if admitted.

Another recommendation is to briefly discuss current events in the intended department. For example, if a certain professor is visiting, mention it in your essay. This shows that an applicant has taken the time to thoroughly research the department. Avoid discussing any rumors or otherwise sensitive or negative commentary. The academic community can be quite small and an admissions committee member may know anyone the applicant mentions.


Briefly restate what has been mentioned earlier in the letter of intent. Make sure to put as much of a positive and strong ending as possible into the letter of intent. Thank the admission committee for reading the letter of intent. Spell check the letter of intent and reread it at least once before submission. Also, keep a copy of the letter of intent for your records, as all materials submitted probably will not be returned.

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