How to write a letter of intent for a university

Updated July 20, 2017

A letter of intent is a common part of the application process when applying to a university. It sometimes called a "statement of purpose" or "personal statement". The letter of intent is a short letter which provides the applicant with a chance to convey a strong message about why the receiving college should accept that applicant, and what that applicant hopes to achieve at the university.

Read any prompts thoroughly. Some university applications will spell out what exactly they want you to write about; others will leave the topic open-ended and vague. Carefully assess what the university is asking you to write, before you start the actual writing process. The university's direction should supersede all others.

Make an outline for the content of your letter; then write. Where possible, be specific. For example, if asked why you are a good candidate, discuss (but do not list) job experience you have related to your field of interest, important awards you have won, individual classes or seminars you have taken, etc.

Remember your audience while writing. A university's admissions committee is usually comprised of knowledgeable staff and faculty who must read through a lot of letters. To help your letter of intent stand out, try to maintain a confident, engaging tone and avoid using obvious or superfluous statements, such as "I like this program."

Edit your paper. When you have finished the first draft, set it aside for a while before coming back to it. This will help you notice any errors. Read your letter of intent aloud to identify any awkward phrases or sentences. Repeat this procedure several times until you are satisfied with the result.

Ask several people to proofread the letter. Ask them what they think you are trying to convey. Preferably, these should be individuals who can be both neutral and honest when critiquing your work. This will give you alternative perspectives and can reveal any problems you missed.

Review your letter of intent one last time. If everything looks good, you are done.


Consult the university's website; there is often a section on the admissions page devoted to helping applicants write their letter of intent. Start well before the deadline. Writing a letter of intent is a time-consuming process and rushing will likely affect the quality of work you produce.


Avoid using the same letter of intent for all college applications; each one should be specific and tailored to that school. A letter of intent which can be applied universally is probably too vague.

Things You'll Need

  • University application
  • Proofreaders
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About the Author

Dotty Ilean has been a writer since 2006, with work appearing on various websites. She holds a B.A. in political science from UC Davis and is pursuing an M.A. in international affairs.