Stephanie J. Silverman
5 Quick Tips for Letter Writers
The new admissions season triggers an uptick in stress levels for would-be students trying to write The Letter for a graduate program. To help mitigate some of these concerns here are some quick and dirty professional tips (that of course should be tailored to your needs and program requirements)
1. Keep the letter to two pages or less!
The admissions committee members will be reading lots of applications. They do not need a book! They need a concise summary. You can DEFINITELY do this in an elegant, eloquent way in 2 pages (including sign-off and signature).
2. Don't bury the lede
Let the committee know what program you are applying to right up front.
Why keep it for the middle of the pages? Makes no sense.
3. Don't waste space detailing how great the program is.
The committee KNOWS their program is great: that is why they are searching for the best candidates for admission. So you can stop saying " The MA Program is well regarded in xx and yy ways"
Rather, think about why YOU are a great candidate for this excellent program of study.
4. Tell, don't show
Don't forget to say WHAT you learned, not WHERE you went.
i.e. Bad: I went to a very elite summer school on the moon.
Good: When I was at a summer school on the moon, I learned firsthand about project management, interpersonal skills development, and how to conduct scientific experiments in high stakes environments.
5. Show your letter to friends and family
Preferably someone who does not know Professional-You too well. In this way, you can ensure that you are communicating why your skills gained from school/work/internships/training/extracurriculars make you a great candidate for further study. This tip works well with mastering Tip No. 4.
Remember: You can do this!
The committee members are not demigods but just people looking to admit students who will succeed in and benefit from the program.
If you would like further help with your letter, I am available for readings or letter consultations.