How to Write a Cover Letter for a PhD

Written by lisa basile | 13/05/2017
How to Write a Cover Letter for a PhD
A good cover letter is essential for doctorate programs. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Applying to graduate school is an important step in the life of a student. The doctorate degree offers a high level of educational achievement. Getting into graduate school to attain a doctorate requires an excellent transcript, experience, references and a well-written cover letter. While the student's transcript reveals their educational accomplishments, their cover letter is the personality of the application. According to Psych WWW, a doctorate cover letter should show the candidate's personality, passions and understanding of the degree program.

How to Write a Cover Letter for a PhD
Write down some accomplishments on a notepad. (pen image by Rog999 from

Start by making a list of ideas and topics that you would like to write about within the cover letter. List accomplishments, awards and personal moments of which you are proud. Make sure to outline what these achievements meant to you so that you can write about them within the cover letter. Notice points in your academic career, including any undergraduate and master's level accomplishments that have inspired you to seek out your doctorate in a specific area. Make sure to make note of any required topics the program specifies, such as a certain kind of essay.

How to Write a Cover Letter for a PhD
Do your research. (notepad image by AGphotographer from

Research the university or college that you want to attend. Read about the program in which you want to enrol. Take note of any prominent professors, special courses or program features. Make sure the university has the program that you want. If you write your cover letter about how important it is to attend a program for memoir writing, but the school only provides fiction and poetry, your application will likely see a rejection.

How to Write a Cover Letter for a PhD
Look at your notes for inspiration. (notes image by Pefkos from

Begin writing the essay by looking at your notes. Decide which accomplishments and points to mention. Discuss who you are with a unique opening statement, and follow this by detailing why you want to embark on a doctoral study program. Provide personal feelings and reasons that balance personality with professionalism.

How to Write a Cover Letter for a PhD
Let the admissions team know you like their program. (student girl reading the book image by Serg Zastavkin from

Mention why the program is an ideal fit for you. Mention the points about the program that appeal to you. Remember to write with a voice that is specific to the program. If you're applying for a doctorate in business, a more formal voice may be better. However, if you're applying for poetry, the voice may be a bit more creative.

How to Write a Cover Letter for a PhD
End with a unique statement. (beautiful young woman lying on a bed typing on a laptop image by sumos from

End the essay with a compelling statement, one that shows the admissions team that you care about being in their program and that it will help you achieve your goals. According to Psych WWW, two double-spaced pages is a good length. Adhere to any length requirements set forth by the admission team. If they ask for 600 words, do not provide more than 600 words.

How to Write a Cover Letter for a PhD
Edit the letter so it reads well. (pencil and eraser image by Alexey Klementiev from

Edit the paper to make sure there are no errors. The spelling, sentence structure and grammar should be completely correct. Let the letter sit for a few days, then come back and look at it again to finalise its contents. Have a professor or fellow grad student proofread it, if possible.

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Pen
  • Notebook

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