What is a motivation essay?

The admission to a higher college or university is often associated with the writing of various types of tests, memorization of rules and formulas, entrance exams and interviews with the admission committee. However, the admission procedure of many higher education institutions includes one more completely different task.

In universities, the emphasis is on testing the depth of knowledge of the applicant and his aptitude. The level of language proficiency and the degree of motivation are assessed.

In addition to the basic documents necessary for admission to most universities, applicants are asked to write a good motivation letter. You should keep in mind that writing this type of a paper requires considerable efforts from the applicant.

Despite the fact that writing a letter of motivation is a creative process, there are a number of principles and unspoken writing rules. A well-written motivation letter can be a decisive fact in the admission to a particular university.

In this article, we will tell you in detail about this type of an essay and give some useful advice on how to prepare it so that you can attract the attention of the admission committee.

A motivation essay or a statement of purpose is a one or two-page essay the aim of which to explain the choice of university or a particular academic program, to demonstrate your academic interests, experience, accomplishments, and intentions.

You can choose from the two formats of a motivation letter:
  • An essay without a particular structure. The applicant is given the opportunity to talk about himself or herself in a free form. This essay has a standard structure: introduction, conclusion, and the main part which is devoted to the argument on the program choice and description of relevant skills and career goals.
  • An essay in the form of the answer to the question. The candidate is asked to complete several short writing tasks, each of which is an answer to the question. Most often, you need this essay version to apply to an MBA or Bachelor's degree program in the United States.

Why is this type of an essay important?

The admission officers see a school graduate without a motivation letter as a candidate with a dime-a-dozen record presented in dry facts and figures: an average score, language test score, date of training, nationality, etc. as many universities accept students without examination, a motivation letter is an opportunity to learn why you have chosen them and what are your goals for the period of studies.

The purpose of any motivation letter is to persuade the admission body of a university that you are the candidate who they should choose you from the others. Therefore, in this essay it is crucial to show the following:
  • To explain why you are a good fit for the university and the program.
  • To show your true interest in the intended field of study.
  • To show that you know why you need it, i.e. to describe your career goals.

If there are controversial points in your biography, then in this essay you have a chance to give a reasonable explanation.

How to start an essay

If you have a little experience in writing essays you may have problems preparing one of the most important papers in your life.

To improve the situation you have to treat this matter as careful as possible and learn every aspect of writing a motivation letter for a university. Here are some basic starting points for you:
  • Make sure to learn all available information about the program, course, and university which you are going to enter. All necessary information you can find on the university website, as well as in other sources on the Internet like the accounts of the university in social networks, Wikipedia, ratings, etc.
  • Learn the requirements for a motivation letter. This information can be found only on the university website. You should know the maximum amount allowed for the essay and find out whether you need to answer certain questions in the paper and so on.
  • Outline the structure. You must present the information blocks that will make up the motivational essay.
  • Brainstorm. It's a daunting task to be the author and introduce yourself to the readers. Below you will be able to read the questions to help you collect enough material to produce the first draft.

What to write in the motivation paper?

Every motivation essay should contain short-term and long-term goals of an applicant. To identify these goals you should answer these questions which are grouped according to a particular category.

Answer the questions about your plans and ambitions:
  • What attracts you to this or that university programme?
  • Are there the teachers in the faculty you have chosen whose scientific interests are interesting for you? i
  • What exactly do you expect to receive from your studies in a chosen programme of study?
  • What are your career plans and how a chosen training program can help you achieve them?
  • How do you imagine your dream job? What would you ideally like to do in 10 years?

Respond to the questions about your skills and personal qualities: ¥ What skills do you have (e.g. analytical, managerial, communication)? ¥ Why may you be a suitable candidate for the university (for teachers and other students)? ¥ Why do you think you will be one of the best students in the chosen course? ¥ Why do you think you will make a successful career in this field?

Tell about your personal achievements and experiences:
  • What are the most significant events in your life? Here you can tell about events, impressions from your own life or members of your family, valuable victories for you, personalities that contributed to the development of your personality.
  • Did you have to overcome unusual obstacles (economic, communicative, financial, political, social, physical, etc.) and how did you overcome them? However, try not to make it look like the difficulty that justifies your failures.
  • If you had some work at higher education college, what have you learned (e.g. leadership or management skills) and how did your student experience influence your development?
Describe your studies and academic achievements:
  • When did you first become interested in the chosen field of knowledge?
  • What have you learned since then about your future profession and about yourself that spurred your interest?
  • How are you interested in the chosen field of knowledge – classes at school or University, reading books, conferences, and communication with people working in this area?
  • Are there any gaps or inconsistencies in your studies that require clarification?
  • Can you remember an event that reinforced your confidence in the correctness of the chosen career path?

After such a brainstorming session, there should be several main topics that can be discussed in a motivation letter. It is recommended to choose one to two main themes. You should choose topics that directly integrate with the interested area of expertise; best describe your personality; help to create the most complete picture of you; the ones that are unique or related to your experience and viewpoints; the ones that are able to hold the reader's interest.

Basic approaches to writing a personal statement

There are two popular ways to approach your motivation paper:
  • A chronological approach. This is a consistent description of the events from the past to the present. However, there is a possibility that the motivation letter will turn into a monotonous autobiography "I was born, studied, married." try to avoid it by adding some vivid details to the facts you are going to present.
  • A thematic approach. Focus on one or two key topics that may or may not be presented sequentially. The advantage of the thematic approach is that it allows you to combine two time-separated events that are similar and suit your goals.

Motivation essay structure

This type of a paper conforms to a basic essay structure. Follow it to arrange the chosen information:


Its purpose is to attract the reader's attention and interest. The introduction may also indicate the direction of further narration. There are several ways to start a motivation letter:
  • An interesting quote. However, keep in mind that many candidates use this method, so there is a risk to fail the uniqueness of your story.
  • Description of an exciting experience of your life. further on you have to describe that event or impression to make it clear to the reader.
  • A remarkable fact from your biography. It is important that this fact fits into the overall context of the narrative.
  • The statement of the problem. The problem can be personal or social. In the future, the narrative should show the process of internal or external overcoming of this problem, or how you have come to its deeper understanding.

Main part

Here you describe what you have got during the brainstorming stage. Here the sequence doesn't matter. The main thing is that one fact should logically follow the other. You should mention your career goals and explain why you have chosen this university. in the body paragraphs you show how your education or experience prepared you for the studies.


The aim of this paragraph is to leave a lasting impression of what the admission officer has read about. There are several recommendations for writing the final part:
  • You should synthesize the themes, not to summarize facts and experience. There is no need to summarize paragraph by paragraph or remind the reader once again of what was discussed earlier. Instead, it is better to touch on the key topics once again, but not just to repeat them in other words, but to present them from a different angle.
  • You can tie your story to a wider context. It could be your life or your area of interest or some problem. But it should not look like you are going to change the world or bring a deep philosophical truth from your personal experience.
  • In a concluding part of a motivation letter, you specify your long-term goals. Your goals should be presented logically from the experience and skills outlined earlier. Then the description of the goals will naturally combine the topics of your past, present and future.
  • To make it easier, you can review lots of splendid motivation letter samples on our website.

Essential tips and writing strategies

The following recommendations on the organization of the whole paper are essential for a perfect personal statement: Specify the most interesting facts and experiences at the beginning of the essay.

Arrange the facts so that the reader can see your progress. For example, how your initial curiosity turned into a passion for the subject or how the abilities discovered in an early childhood in some area helped you to develop a particular skill. If you use a thematic approach, you can combine two interrelated but separated by time topics. In this case, you will not have to fill in the time gap with unnecessary details.

Use transitional phrases to connect paragraphs. First, it will allow you to inform the reader about the facts that will be presented below. Second, transitional phrases will provide a semantic relationship with the previous paragraph.

Each paragraph is a mini-story so you have to finalize it with a meaningful statement.

The importance of editing

Keep in mind that an errorless essay increases your chances for success. You may need to edit the text repeatedly at all levels, from words and sentences to the chunks of content. That's OK.

To make the editing process less tedious and efficient, use the following recommendations:
  • Write the first draft without worrying about the beauty of the language. It will give more space to your creativity.
  • After a couple of days, evaluate the text with a fresh look — the problem areas will become more obvious for you. Remove sentences without semantic load, get rid of clichés and colloquialisms, and rewrite boring paragraphs.
  • Check for typos and grammatical errors. If you do not fit into the volume, see what can be reduced without damaging the meaning and replace wordy sentences with shorter statements.

What is a perfect essay for college?

A perfect letter of motivation is the one that allows the selection committee to evaluate the applicant in the best way. It usually has the following characteristics:
  • Analysis of personal qualities. Usually, the description of personal qualities is required for a motivation letter to a bachelor's degree or a scholarship. That is why it is often called a personal statement.
  • Sincerity. You should not over-focus on the facts which you consider the admission committee wants to hear. Instead, try to open up and tell your own story. No one wants to read a fake letter of interest.
  • Training and motivation. First, it should be obvious from the essay that you have an understanding and realistic plans as to the qualification you are going to get in this college. Second, you should explain why you are interested in it. You have to mention how your previous education and experience have influenced your decision.
  • Your goals. It is important to skillfully argue the choice, namely, how studying on the chosen program can help in achieving your professional goal. If there is no clear goal, then at least indicate the area in which you would like to work.
  • You have to justify your choice and supported it by the facts. For example, you can refer to specific aspects of the curriculum, the scientific interests of faculty members that you are particularly attracted by.
  • Ability to express ideas. If you want to apply for a particular course, it is important to show a good level of written speech. This applies not only to the ability to write grammatically correct sentences but also to the logical structure of the text.

Actually, there is no universal recipe for a successful motivation letter. In many ways, your success depends on how you are able to show your aspirations, knowledge, skills, and goals. To master the art of writing a motivation paper you need to practice a lot. We hope that our recommendations will help you to cope with this college application challenge.

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