Motivation letter or Statement of Purpose
Many students are confused about the requirement of including a statement of purpose, or motivation letter in their application. A motivation letter and a statement of purpose are very similar, but they are not the same thing
However, both documents should be focused on your background and reasons for applying for a particular degree. Typically, they should be clearly structured and well-written, but not very long (don’t tell the university your life story). Try to limit it to 1-2 pages.
Here is what most universities expect you to include in a motivation letter/statement of purpose:
Why you want to undertake that specific programme at their university, and how you have learned about the programme.
What interests you about the programme’s content, and what makes it the best study option for you.
What particular factor convinced you to pick that programme (reputation, professors, employment options, etc.)
How your previous studies match the Master’s you want to pursue. If they don’t match you should argue why you want to change subject areas.
What career you are aiming for after graduation and how this degree fits your plan.
While a statement of purpose and a motivation letter are similar there’s a subtle difference between them.
With a motivation letter, universities expect you to focus more on how their programme relates to your background and your professional plans. They might also want you to state which is the course or specialization you want to focus on during your Master’s.
With a statement of purpose, universities expect you to talk about who you are, what has influenced and inspired your academic and professional journey so far, your interests and your professional goals. In other words, it is a much more personal document and your chance to shine in your application.
Reference letters let others speak for you. Typically, they are considered additional evidence of your ability that you’ll successfully complete the Master’s you are applying to.
If you are only required to submit letters from professors, then these letters will focus on your academic skills and achievements. If you are required or allowed to submit a reference letter from an employer, universities expect that letter to reflect the skills related to your Master’s.
For example, if you are applying for a Computer Science degree, it is more valuable to have a reference letter from your supervisor in a tech company rather than a reference letter from an employer where you worked in customer service, for instance.
Make sure you ask for the reference letters well in advance so that they reach the university on time.
Project description or portfolio
A project description or a portfolio is only required for very specialised programmes, like a Master of Research or a Master of Science type of degree.
Portfolios are required in applications for Masters in the Arts, Design and Architecture subject areas. Universities expect this portfolio to reflect your experience, and, yes, your talent in your field of study. They will also look at your clients and the type of projects you carried through.
A project description is required when you are applying to a programme that will end with a research thesis. This project description should include:
What are you going to research and why;
What is the current state of research on that topic;
How you are going to conduct your research;
What findings you expect and how your research adds to the existent body of knowledge.
The CV is your business card. Universities are not interested in a detailed description of all your jobs and extracurricular activities, although you should definitely include them. They want to see how your experience matches or shows your interest in the programme you want to study.
For this reason, you should focus on including in your CV published academic papers, and work (paid or unpaid) in academic groups, relevant think-thanks, etc.
For example, if you are applying to a Nursing degree, you will impress the commission if you have taken internships at hospitals, or if you have published any study in a peer-reviewed magazine.
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At the same time, if you are applying for a more professional or a STEM Master’s, you should include relevant work experience in your industry. For example, if you are applying for a Finance Master’s, it would be awesome if you have worked in a bank or any other financial institution.