Application letter (cover or motivation letter)

You apply for a study program because you think it is the best for you. The university administration who screen the application need to know your reason of applying (motivation) for their study program. That is why it is very important to prepare a comprehensive and eye catching application (cover/motivation letter) when you send your application. In many cases, the main text of the email that you send to the professor is acting as a cover letter.

You should know that a high ranked University Professor generally receive between 50 to 200 emails per day (depends on the seniority and fame). So, they do not have time to read all your email through (maybe they maximum devote few seconds to your email). You should prepare your email so good to convince him continuing reading your email further and even open the attached CV that you sent. There are some hints that we summarized here in order to get most of this chance. First we start with mistakes that you should avoid otherwise your email will be landed in the trash/spam of the host professor.

Never do:

  • Never send same email to many professors at a time! We have seen that many applicants send email starting with term such as “Respected Professor“! That is a fatal mistake meaning that you send this email at a time to many recipients (professors).
  • Never write statements such as “I am interested in Physics, Chemistry, Biology” or some similar generic subjects. The recipient of the email (professor) has a very particular expertise on some specific subject (e.g. Low temperature STM or  Leidenfrost Chemistry etc.) and interested to see if you have some similar background.
  • Never write a long email as starting point. For PhD or Postdoc application, never discuss your high school activities in the covering letter (contact email).

There are some particular points that you should consider when contacting a professor to enquire a position in his/her group.

To do:

  • Address the name of the professor to show him that you are sending this email exclusively to him. This can be done as “Dear Professor XX“.
  • Introduce yourself by mentioning which qualification you have. Do not list all you have in CV but write only the top achievements that you think match to the research activities of the host professor. For instance:”I am XXX, a graduate student from Gent University, who has been working on atomic force microscopy (AFM) in the last 3 years and have published 2 articles on AFM in Journal of X and Y…“.
  • Then, explain why you are writing to him/her by stating the major activities of the host professor. The best action would be if you write a sentence about the particular subject that the host professor (and your self) is interested in and and have some articles on that subject. For instance, you can write: “I have read your recent article on AFM published in Journal of X wherein the correlation of morphology of Graphene and the deposition condition was discussed.”.
  • Finish your short email by expressing how your expertise match his/her research activities. For instance, you can write:”My MSc project on microscopic analysis of Graphene shows that the morphology depends not only on the fabrication method but the environment temperature. So, I would like to explore this effect under AFM in your team as a world leading group of Graphene characterization in frame of a PhD project.“.

This page is continuously developing. We appreciate your comments and feedback. Feel free to ask if you have some particular problem on application letter preparation (Use the box below).

You can also find more details about the study programs in various european countries such as admission requirements, the cost of student life, tuition fees and how to apply for a PhD programs.

Leave a Reply