Ultimate Guide to Crafting a Winning Motivation Letter in 2024

Stephen Greet
Stephen Greet April 13, 2024
Ultimate Guide to Crafting a Winning Motivation Letter in 2024

Scholarships, degrees, volunteer roles, internships, and jobs share a key requirement: motivation.

No matter if you’re applying for a research position or hoping to score a scholarship, the person you’re writing to wants to know that you’re motivated, and beyond that, what motivates you. That’s why writing a motivation letter is very different from writing a cover letter—it’s not just about your qualifications but more about what makes you tick, your story, and what brought you to where you are now.

Writing a motivation letter that captures the reader from the get-go might seem tricky, but don’t worry—that’s what we’re here for. Check out our comprehensive guide for all the motivation letter tips, examples, and templates you could wish for.

The Fundamentals of Motivation Letters

What is a Counter Offer Letter?

Motivation letters, also known as—surprise—letters of motivation, are often a requirement for various academic programs, scholarships, volunteering, and more.

But what are they really, and how are they any different from, say, a letter of interest or even a cover letter? Buckle up because that’s what we’ll be discusssing below.

Introduction to motivation letters

A motivation letter is essentially a single-page introduction that you send, often alongside other required documents, to institutions, companies, or individuals that might be interested in them. You’ll mostly see these in academic contexts, be it scholarships or college applications.

Motivation letters are mostly used for:

  • College admissions
  • Scholarship applications
  • Study abroad programs
  • Research positions and fellowships
  • Internships
  • Volunteering
  • Specialized workshops and conferences
  • Rarely, job applications

More often than not, a motivation letter will be required if you’re applying for any of the above. Even if it’s not, writing one and discussing your background, what’s important to you about that particular program, and a little bit of personal motivations can be the thing that sets you apart from other candidates.

A motivation letter is different from a letter of interest, letter of introduction, letter of intent, or a cover letter, although you will sometimes see these terms used interchangeably. The goal is to discuss why you’re motivated to apply and how the opportunity fits into your long-term goals and plans.

Think of it as a sort of hype letter from you to the position you’re applying for. Sure, you might be sending several of these just in case you don’t get into your first choice, but the recipient doesn’t need to know that.

To them, it should sound like this is your dream field of study, your number one college, or a life-changing internship opportunity. And more importantly, it should explain just why you’re the best pick for the opening.

Knowing when to write a motivation letter

Seeing as people use the term “motivation letter” pretty loosely, you may find them used in the context of getting a job—especially in Europe. However, the most common use cases revolve around academic opportunities.

Below, we’ll explore three of the most popular scenarios and give you handy templates to use when crafting your own.

Applying for a college program

Most universities require a motivation letter as part of the application process. When writing one, your goal should be to go over your academic goals, but also your hobbies and interests.

Colleges are after well-rounded students who have something to bring to the table, so if you can express why this program and this school are both important to you, you’ll have one foot in the door!

Here’s a template you can use to get started on your own motivation letter:

University Motivation Letter

Jessica Alvarez
123 Pretend Ave.
Stanford, CA 94305
[email protected]
(650) 555-0123

April 18, 2024

Ms. Evelyn Harper
Director of Admissions
Office of Undergraduate Admission
Stanford University
123 Pretend Ave.
Stanford, CA 94305

Dear Ms. Harper,

I am writing to express my sincere interest in the master’s in environmental science at Stanford University. I’m a recent graduate, having completed the program at the University of Colorado Boulder. My dream has always been to pursue an environmental science degree at Stanford, and I hope to contribute my drive and passion for environmental issues in the upcoming class of 2025.

Growing up, I became acutely aware of the disastrous impact of climate change on our planet. From glaciers to global temperatures, the whole world is affected by the mistakes that we now have to work hard to fix. My goal has always been to address climate change through innovative research and sustainable practices. I hope to one day put my knowledge and skills to use by becoming a leader in environmental policy reform.

I know that the Environmental Science program at Stanford is one of the best in the country, but the prestige is not what drove me to apply. I feel that your course is comprehensive and aligns with my dream of making a significant impact on global sustainability efforts perfectly.

I have the utmost respect for Stanford University and I am confident that my knowledge of environmental science will be an asset to every project I participate in as well as a life-changing experience for me.

Thank you for considering my application. I am looking forward to the opportunity to discuss this with you in further detail at your convenience.

Jessica Alvarez

Applying for a scholarship

If you’re applying for a scholarship, a motivation letter is your golden opportunity—quite literally—to wow the recipient and explain to them why you are the most worthwhile candidate.

Scholarships are often few and far apart, and almost always, there’ll be more applicants than there are spots. This is why your letter needs to outline not just straight-up academic excellence, but also your future goals and what drives you to seek a scholarship. It’s okay (or even recommended) to be candid, but keep it professional.

Here’s a template to inspire you before you write your own letter of motivation:

Scholarship Motivation Letter

Jordan Padalecki
123 Pretend Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30301
[email protected]
(404) 555-6168

January 19, 2025

Mr. Thomas Griffin
Scholarship Committee
Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation
123 Pretend Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30301

Dear Mr. Griffin,

My name is Jordan Padalecki and I have recently obtained my bachelor’s degree in computational media from the Georgia Institute of Technology. With great enthusiasm mixed with a dash of hope, I am writing to you to apply for the Coca-Cola Scholars Program. My dream has always been to utilize technology and media to develop educational programs that enhance learning experiences for underserved communities, and I hope that with your help, I will achieve my goals.

Throughout my education, I always strived to maintain good grades. I was an active student, with participation in coding hackathons and my role as a volunteer tutor for local community centers driving me always to learn more and do more. I’ve had my eyes on the prize from a young age, but now, I am faced with a problem that so many other students have to deal with—my situation doesn’t permit me to keep pursuing these goals and achieve my dream master’s degree in educational technology at the University of California.

Due to my family’s limited financial resources and the high costs associated with advanced education, securing funding through personal means is not feasible. This has driven me to apply for a scholarship, hoping to continue my education without the overwhelming burden of debt.

My family, as well as my past experiences, have instilled in me a profound sense of responsibility and drive for knowledge and success. I know that if I am given the chance, I will make the most out of every second at Berkeley and go on to create and implement innovative educational tools that can significantly improve learning outcomes in regions where access to technology is scarce.

I am eternally grateful for your time and your consideration. Please feel free to reach out with any questions, and I hope that we can discuss my application soon.

Jordan Padalecki

Applying for an internship

When applying for an internship, aside from deciding on a fantastic resume template, you should consider sending a motivation letter. In this iteration, the motivation letter is perhaps closest to a cover letter, but it’s not quite the same thing.

Focus this one on your enthusiasm for the field, your approach to learning, and how this internship can be transformative to your career—but don’t forget to throw in a few words on why you’re the best candidate for the role. (Hint: using a cover letter generator can be a good start to give you some ideas.)

Here’s an example template for this type of motivation letter:

Internship Motivation Letter

Daniel Romanescu
123 Pretend Ave.
Redmond, WA 98052
[email protected]
(425) 555-0147

June 13, 2024

Ms. Jamila Coughlan
Internship Coordinator
Microsoft Corporation
123 Pretend Ave.
Redmond, WA 98052

Dear Ms. Coughlan,

I am reaching out to express my enthusiastic interest in the Software Engineering Internship at Microsoft. As a recent graduate in computer science from the University of Washington and a lifelong programming enthusiast, I am eager to apply the theoretical knowledge and skills I’ve acquired in a real-world setting. I believe that my proficiency in C# and Python, as well as my experience with cloud services, will allow me to make an impact during my time at Microsoft.

I started my education at the University of Washington with a clear goal: becoming a software engineer. Not only do I find programming fascinating, but I am also motivated by the potential to develop software solutions that can improve everyday life for millions of users. My coursework in advanced programming techniques and cloud computing has provided me with a solid foundation in critical software development skills and cloud integration, and I am keen to further develop these skills through hands-on experience.

During a prior internship at a local tech startup, I was able to lead a team project that developed a comment section under every news post, resulting in a 30% increase in user engagement in the application. I am confident that these experiences, alongside my proactive approach and strong work ethic, will allow me to make a meaningful contribution to the software development team at Microsoft.

I am excited about the opportunity to bring my talents and my drive to Microsoft Corporation as an intern and I couldn’t be more eager to learn from your industry-leading experts.

I look forward to discussing this opportunity during an interview. Thank you so much for your consideration.

Daniel Romanescu

Mastering the Structure and Content of Motivation Letters

The Art of Writing a Counter Offer Letter

You may have a bucketful of motivation and an eagerness to work hard and do your best, but the recipient of your letter of motivation won’t know that unless you make it clear from the get-go.

People often get hundreds of letters, meaning that some of them end up in the bin. To prevent that from happening to yours, it’s important to structure it in a compelling way—which is what we’ll talk about below.

Structuring your motivation letter

Although any and all templates should be used as a starting point and not as a fill-in-the-blanks process, you should still stick to a traditional structure in a motivation letter. Surprise the reader with the content and hook them in with a strong intro, all the while making sure that your letter makes sense and flows well.

Right, but how do you structure all of that in a way that makes sense? Here’s our secret recipe for a winning letter of motivation.

Greeting and intro

To ensure that the recipient reads your letter, you need to chuck all generic greetings and intros out of the window. A personalized greeting is where it’s at, and if possible, try to address the recipient by name.

After the greeting, introduce yourself and state the purpose of your letter in the first sentence. Then, quickly dive into what sets you apart from others, be it your admirable drive or relevant skill set. This is just a single paragraph, but every sentence needs to be highly impactful.

Body of the letter

The next two to three paragraphs make up the body of your letter of motivation. This is where you can elaborate on the things you already briefly touched on in the intro.

In most letters, you’ll want to start by discussing your academic background and/or professional experience, and diving into what led you to where you are now. Mention any relevant coursework, group projects, extracurriculars, or volunteer work that aligns well with the opportunity.

In the second paragraph, switch gears to talking about your motivations and aspirations. This is especially important in letters tailored for scholarships, or those applying for jobs at nonprofits or volunteer positions. If you have personal reasons that drove you to reach out to this particular company or institution, shout them from the rooftops right here.

Conclusion and signoff

In the final paragraph, thank the reader for their consideration. Then, throw in a so-called call to action, meaning a sentence that drives them to act; such as “I look forward to discussing this opportunity during an interview.”

Sign off with a simple, “Sincerely, [your name].”

Crafting a compelling narrative

Your job is to tell a story, and this story needs to hit a few beats. You need to drive the point home that you’re interested in this particular opportunity and nothing else.

Next, you need to show what got you to where you are now—why are you interested in this, and what are you hoping to achieve?

Lastly, treat your qualifications as a cherry on top that shows that you’ve put a lot of effort into your field of interest and that you can’t wait to keep doing the same with this new opportunity.

Creating your motivation letter with not just the structure, but also the narrative in mind, will make for a more engaging read, and that’s always a good thing.

Here are some useful tips for this part of the process:

  • Look for connections.
    How do your background and education align with the opportunity you’re applying to? What about your motivations and goals?
    When writing your letter, look for opportunities to make these little connections. Instead of just saying: “I’m driven,” say: “I was particularly impressed with the success of your track team, and I believe that my drive to keep training and do even better would make me fit right in with the class of 2025.”
  • Get a little personal. Chances are that the recipient of your letter is getting many more of them from other people, and if they can all essentially be summed up as “Hi, pick me, thank you,” not a single one will stand out. That’s why getting a little personal is recommended, but make sure to keep your tone professional. Discuss why you, as a person and not just as a student or as an employee, dream of landing this opportunity.
  • Drive the point home. When you’re concluding your letter, it’s a good idea to include a sentence that summarizes the contents and compels the reader to get back to you. An example of that can be, “My background in computer science and my love for coding position me as a strong candidate for the software engineering internship program at [company]. I look forward to discussing this with you further in any manner that suits you.”

Enhancing Your Motivation Letter with Advanced Strategies

Essential Components of a Counter Offer Letter

Getting to the point where you have a draft may take some time, but even if you’re feeling eager, don’t send your letter just yet. Hold your horses! It’s important to polish this letter to perfection.

Check out our tips on some more advanced strategies that will give your letter that little bit of extra charm.

Personalizing your letter

We’ll share a harsh truth with you: a letter of motivation that is not personalized is most likely going to end up in the trash with the rest of the application.

People in charge of admissions, scholarships, and recruiting all receive so much correspondence that even top-notch applicants get overlooked. This is why being generic is a killer, and personalizing your letter is the way to go.

What can you do to make sure your application practically screams, “I’ve done my homework” and gets picked out of a hundred other letters?

  • Do lots of research. You can’t create an effective letter without knowing the place you’re applying to in and out. Before you even start writing, learn about the company or organization and take notes on some of the programs and recent achievements. Mention them in your letter if they’re relevant.
  • Tap into mission and values. Start with the basics—what is the core mission of the organization, and what values does it uphold? Knowing this allows you to tailor your narrative in a way that echoes the principles they want to see. In your research, go beyond just a simple skim of the About Us page and see if the organization is involved in any charitable work or has made any mission statements.
  • Talk about specific programs. Look for specific programs, initiatives, or projects that excite you and relate to your field of interest. Mentioning these not only shows that you’ve done your homework but also that you are genuinely enthusiastic about contributing to these areas.
  • Show some personality. Some letters need to be super formal, but while we don’t advise being casual, it’s okay to let go of the reins a little in your motivation letter. Let your personality shine through the words on the page and show how important this is to you.

Avoiding common mistakes

Writing a motivation letter means striking a delicate balance between personal expression and professional appeal. That makes it equally tricky as writing a resume, but it’s made harder by the fact that you won’t have a handy resume checker to look through your work for you at the end of the process.

Some of the pitfalls we discuss below need to be avoided like the plague.

  • Don’t be generic. We’ve talked about this, but it warrants repeating in its own little section. Being generic is a surefire way to be ignored. It can be tiring, but avoid using a one-size-fits-all approach and write a new motivation letter from scratch for each position that you truly care about.
  • Avoid clichés. Motivation letters kind of lend themselves to clichés, but try to steer clear of them. Saying something like “This is my dream and I’m a hard worker” is both generic and irrelevant. Instead, get specific, delving deeper into what this opportunity means to you. For example: “Ever since my childhood dog developed kidney disease and I helped my parents look after him, I knew that I wanted to become a veterinarian and help other animals through their pain. I know that studying at [college] is not a walk in the park, but that is precisely why I chose it—I want to work hard and become the best vet I can be.”
  • Know when to stop. Even if you have a lot to say, it’s important to be concise and to the point. Your letter should always fit a single page and should ideally have no more than four to five paragraphs.

Review and Refine Your Motivation Letter

Navigating Counter Offer Negotiations

We’re almost at the finish line. You have your letter, it’s looking fantastic, and you’re itching to send it off so that you can count the days until you get a response.

That’s all well and good, but before you hit that tantalizing “Send” button, make sure to apply these finishing touches for even better effect.

Proofreading and editing

Our number one tip? Proofread your letter and then (figuratively) sleep on it. ****Don’t send this very important letter as soon as you finish it after working on it until 5 in the morning. Instead, proofread it once, get some sleep, edit it again, and then send it off. You don’t want to appear unprofessional.

Your editing process should go beyond a quick check for typos. Start by checking your grammar and punctuation. A good tip to spot mistakes is to read your letter starting with the final paragraph—it’ll appear fresh in your mind and help your brain identify potential problem areas.

Next, check for coherence and flow. Ensure that the story you want to tell is easy to follow; adjust paragraph length; cut unnecessary words and sentences. Your letter needs to be concise and impactful.

Lastly, consider your tone. Motivation letters tend to have a more personal edge than, let’s say, a ChatGPT cover letter—but they’re still addressed to professionals, not friends. Make sure that you’re coming off as candid and respectful.

Seeking feedback

To help you further, here are some common mistakes to avoid in counter offer letters.

Let’s be real—writing a letter of motivation takes time. It’s probably taken you a few hours by this point, if not longer, and with breaks, the whole process can sometimes take days.

After that much time, your brain will become so used to every turn of phrase and every word in the letter that you’ll become far less likely to spot any mistakes.

This is why a fresh pair of eyes can help, but not just to proofread or fix the flow. Asking the right person to give you feedback on your letter is often a crucial part of writing it.

This is especially common in academic settings. When applying for colleges, you’ll ask your teachers for review, and then revise your letter based on their feedback. Similarly, applying for a master’s program or an internship gets a lot easier if you ask a professor or two to give you their opinion.

Turn to your friends, colleagues, mentors, or coaches and gather all feedback you can—it’s often tremendously helpful.

Leveraging Templates and Samples for Success


As you may have gathered, these letters are highly, highly, highly personalized, so you might think that using templates is completely out the window.

Not true—there are ways to streamline the process and make it a little bit easier on you, all the while still maintaining high quality in your writing. Here’s what you can do.

Utilizing resources

Templates are a good way to make the process less tedious. We’ve shared some handy options for you up above. However, you might now be wondering if these are even okay to use, given the personal nature of motivation letters.

Don’t worry—you’re in the clear. Go ahead and use a template. The catch? You should never use it word-for-word.

A motivation letter template or sample is a starting point. It’s meant to show you how to structure your letter and, roughly, what to talk about. Instead of copy-pasting a template and filling in the blanks, use it to plan out your own outline, with an intro, a couple of body paragraphs, and a strong closer.

The same thing applies to writing a resume. You can use resume examples or a resume builder to get the job done in two minutes, but that’s just the beginning. From there, you’ll add and edit everything to make sure it aligns with your background and expertise.

Samples can be useful if you’re short on ideas, too. They can give you some guidance on what to talk about. The rule of thumb here is the more specific, the better—instead of following the sample exactly, do some digging and identify interesting programs or projects to personalize your letter with.

When using examples from templates, make sure to adapt them to your context. For instance, if the template discusses being compassionate and wanting to care for others, this is lovely, but won’t apply to every job or college degree. Think of your own ideas, write them down, and then pick the ones that best apply.

Last but not least, use your own voice. It’s very easy to tell when something was written by someone else or by AI generators. If your personality shines through, your chances for success will be much greater.

Conclusion and encouragement

With the help of your own research and our comprehensive guide, you now know how to write the perfect letter of motivation.

You’re ready to start strong with a compelling intro, discuss your background, experience, and goals in the body paragraphs, and sign off with the perfect closer. You know that your letter needs to be full of your own unique voice and personalized to a fault.

If you’ve done everything you could and you’re still not sure, you might have one final obstacle to defeat: overthinking.

Have you ever heard of analysis paralysis? It’s basically what happens when you overthink something so much that you can’t act on it anymore.

This often affects people who are working on resumes, cover letters, or motivation letters, both due to the high stakes and due to the fact that they’ve been working on them for hours on end.

If this is you, and you’ve spent hours and hours writing the perfect letter, but you’re still not sure, we’re here to tell you to just go for it.

A well-written motivation letter may be all that it takes for you to stand out and secure your dream position, be it a master’s program at the college of your dreams or an internship with a company that you hope to work for in the future. There’s a lot to gain and nothing to lose.

After several rounds of editing and some feedback from others, once your letter is ready, send it in with confidence. You’ve done everything you can at this point, so don’t be afraid to go ahead and just do it!

Motivation Letter FAQs

Counter Offer Letter FAQs
How do you write a motivational letter?

Start with a personalized greeting, preferably addressing the recipient by name (this takes some research). Next, in the first paragraph, quickly introduce yourself, state the purpose of your letter, and express why you’re interested in this opportunity. Use a couple of paragraphs to discuss your goals, qualifications, and what led you to apply to this particular place. Lastly, sign off with a call to action that inspires the reader to get in touch, and make sure to thank them for their consideration.

How long is a letter of motivation?

A letter of motivation should take up a single page and a maximum of four to five paragraphs, although certain positions only require a short three-paragraph letter. It should be concise and impactful enough to maintain the reader’s interest throughout, but not short enough to fail to accurately describe why you’re an awesome pick for the opportunity.

What not to say in a motivation letter?

Avoid being generic and overly fluffy—your letter needs to be to the point. Stay positive, respectful, and grateful, avoiding falling into demanding or too informal tones. Focus on your strengths and motivations, and even if you’re unhappy with something, such as your previous school or job, never mention it in this letter.

Can a motivation letter be informal?

While a motivation letter should reflect your personality and enthusiasm, it’s crucial to maintain a professional tone. The level of formality can be adjusted slightly based on the culture of the organization or institution, but it should never be overly casual or stray into informality. The only exception is if the opportunity specifically demands it, but that’s very, very rare.

Is a motivation letter similar to a cover letter?

Yes and no. A motivation letter serves a similar purpose, in that it introduces you, your background, and your goals to an opportunity you’re interested in, be it volunteer work or a scholarship. However, a cover letter is succinct, job-oriented, and focused on your career achievements. Motivation letters dig deeper into who you are and why you’re interested in a particular position; besides, it’s more often used in academic contexts.