Writing a compelling letter of motivation

This week in our application tips series, we reveal what we’re looking for in your letter of motivation. You can apply for the Master of International Affairs (MIA) and the Master of Public Policy (MPP) until 1 May 2021.

One of the most important documents in your application is your letter of motivation. While your CV and transcripts outline your experience and achievements, only your motivation letter gives these credentials context and shows us your personality, ambitions and suitability for the Hertie School.

Go beyond the experiences listed in your CV

Weighted with 20% in the selection process, the letter of motivation is your chance to convince the admissions committee, in 500 to 900 words, why you should be part of the next cohort. Don’t just restate what’s in your CV, show us through detailed and convincing arguments how your experiences have and will contribute to your personal and professional development. Remember to write in your voice, not the voice you think we want to hear. Don’t be afraid to make it personal, but keep in mind that being authentic doesn’t mean being gimmicky. We want to get a sense of who you are.

Needless to say, appealing formatting and correct grammar are essential. Make sure your letter is free of typos and keep the formatting clean and simple.

Important questions to ask yourself

Try mulling over these questions as you write:

  • What in particular about the master’s programme excites you?
  • Why, at this point in time, do you want to pursue a master’s programme at our university?
  • What goals or plans do you have for your career after you graduate?
  • Why do you think you’d be a good fit for the Hertie School, and why would the Hertie School be a good fit for you?
  • Are there any significant life experiences that have shaped your worldview?

Of course, you don’t need to answer each and every one of these questions. The point is simply that we’re looking for specific details that show us what drives you. A statement that is too general or lacks clear examples and persuasive arguments can sink an otherwise strong application. Equally, a particularly compelling letter of motivation can help push your application to the top of the stack.


Next up in the series: What you should consider when submitting academic transcripts. Read more about our MIA and MPP admissions requirements and apply today!

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