08.02.2020
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How to help your student to write a strong motivation letter

— Dear Olga, can you help me to write a motivational letter for the university application?

— Valeriy, please let’s write a cover letter for my job application at this lesson.

— Anastasiya, I have written a cover letter for applying to a program. Can I send it to you to check?

— I am worried and do not know how to write a motivation letter. Can you help me?

Is this familiar? Have you ever been in such a situation? 

To start with, let’s define what the motivation letter is. It is a piece of writing about a person, their experience, ambitions, and plans. A motivation letter aims to sell the CV.  A person reading the motivation letter should be interested in opening the CV. So, a common mistake that people usually make, is to repeat the information that they have in their CV in their motivation letter. Another pitfall is that the motivation letter is so long that it can be challenging to focus on the main idea throughout the text.

Now as a teacher, we should help the student to write a good and outstanding motivation letter but we should not write it for them, right?

What can we do?

From the perspective of the language

1) Work on the calibre of the language.

We can ask them to write the first draft of the letter.  Then, here is what I do. I write some advanced phrases and give them the task to replace some words or phrases in their letter with those from the provided list.

You can also instruct your students to use specific tenses or advanced grammar, such as conditionals, inversions, or passive voice. If the motivational letter has a lot of grammatical or spelling errors, and simple vocabulary, it will most probably not be impressive.

2) Work on the style

Your students will need to be specific and explain why they wish to study or work in that specific institution. Sometimes the students tend to use general language. They do not need to use very complicated and convoluted sentences. Instead, they have to use simple and clear explanations of what they are the right person for the position and what they will offer.

Ask your student to put themselves in the shoes of the reader. And the potential employer or the selection committee wants to see professional, stable, and keen applicants.

From the perspective of tone and interest

Help your student see who is the ideal candidate for the position. Ask your student to read the announcement or requirements and underline the key phrases or words that describe who the potential employer or institution wants to see. The institutions usually clearly mention in their requirements who will be the perfect candidate. Ask them to visualize the prospective employee or a student for that position.

In the end, your student should know that their motivation letter should capture the reader’s attention. They do not need to generate boring and uninteresting text that will be usual and common and will not stand out among the others.

Do not write a motivation letter for your student, help them to learn the skill of promoting themselves. That is one of the 21st-century skills.

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