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An application letter is usually written when a person would like to enroll for courses at a college or university. It is worth remembering that entry and enrollment in colleges and universities has become an extremely competitive prospect. Many more students desire to find a place to earn a degree than there are places to accommodate them. Naturally, the admissions committees only take the best applicants they can find, and they base a large part of their decisions on the application letter written by prospective students.

Steps for Writing an Application Letter

  1. Read the admissions notice or site publicizing the university or college carefully.
  2. Make a list of all the requirements and all the materials you are expected to provide in the application.
  3. Create an appropriate curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to be attached to the cover letter.
  4. Make sure you have certified copies of any certificates required.
  5. Make a point list of all aspects to cover in the application letter.
  6. Write three central paragraphs that cover your awareness of the admissions requirements, the qualifications you hold that match them, and why you feel you are a suitable candidate.
  7. Write a concluding paragraph asking for a personal interview.
  8. Last of all, write an introduction which shows you fully understand what is required of you and express your desire to enroll.

Selecting an Appropriate Tone

Not all colleges and universities are the same. So, not all application letters are the same. Each one addresses a particular ethos or character that an institution possesses. It must be written from scratch and in a tone that suits the educational institution. An application letter to enroll at a community college for a catering course is worded in a different way than one covering an application for enrollment at an ivy-league university.

Tone and attitude are the aspects—after form and content—that the admissions committee looks at when they are seeking for the most suitable students to attend their institute. To be one of those most suitable people, you must make sure that the language of your application letter expresses a tone that compliments the requirements of the institution and that your attitude is shown to be charismatic and driven.

Key Points to Consider

  • Assemble all the materials you need before you start. These include the notice announcing the opening and closing dates of the admissions period. All the appropriate and relevant certificates and documents must be present, which might include a recent photo of yourself, certification of your qualifications, letters of support and testimonials, and evidence of identity, such as a passport, residence permits, and visas. Make certified copies; this means having the correct public officer in your area witness the copies, and place everything in a card folder. Open a word processing folder and type the notes mentioned in Point 5 above. These are easily reworked into paragraphs later.
  • Facts and figures are more important than ideas and opinions. The people reading the application letter need information about you, and facts about your qualifications, together with the data you have gathered about your education, any previous positions held, and your experience in the same field that you are applying for. Other relevant experience is also important.
  • A self-devised note-taking system is best. It will help to keep notes and cuttings in order. The less confusion and fragmentation the better: organization is valuable, and time management skills come into play whenever you need to concentrate on such a task. An application letter is a reflection of your personal standards of language, eloquence, organization, and timeliness.
  • You need to express yourself well and without flaws, organize your materials properly, and send them in on time.
  • It is important to use effective writing techniques in an application letter. Three basic persuasion techniques are: use facts and evidence, apply logic and reason, and appeal to the intelligence and emotions of the reader. Combine the three to create valid points that relate directly to the topics in the advert or announcement for the educational program you are applying for.
  • If there is a list of selection criteria, make sure you address each point on the list.
  • Each point can be built into a paragraph, using notes and paraphrased material from your certificates, testimonials, and other reference materials.
  • Deciding on a writing style is easy—everything must be semi-formal and precise: do not make the mistake of using conversational language, since it is inappropriate for an application letter.

Do and Don’t


  • Do make a solid effort to assemble the right documents. A birth certificate or passport is nearly always needed. Proof of residence, testimonials of previous positions held, letters of support from previous employers, instructors, and supervisors or colleagues, are generally what is needed.
  • Do compose a clear and sensible cover letter in precise language from the start: this will enable you to easily edit your letter when you have reached that stage.
  • Do write several drafts, with a sense of progress and improvement with each one you write.
  • Do understand clearly what is expected of you and which documents you are expected to attach to your application.

  • Don’t underestimate the skill and knowledge of the people representing the educational institution: there is always one person who understands your situation and who can visualize whether you are the right candidate to form part of the year’s intake.
  • Don’t forget that application process is extremely competitive. Other applicants want that place in an educational institute just as much as you do. You must prove to the committee that there is no other candidate more appropriate than you.
  • Don’t cut corners and think you can get away with overstating your abilities or by lying about the way you achieved your educational goals. Truthfulness and honesty are detectable, and act in your favor.

Common Mistakes

  • It is a mistake to try to be too persuasive. The educational institution needs to enroll excellent students who will uphold the reputation of the college or university: what they seek are diligent people who show plenty of promise
  • The most common mistake found in application letters is a failure to mention one’s skills and aptitudes. A list of these, and how they were achieved and developed, is an important part of the application package.
  • It is not wise to omit anything of importance. When you realize it is a matching exercise, you must try to be a perfect match, mentioning all experience and credentials truthfully but clearly.
  • A frequently-seen flaw is rushed or unprepared writing. Research the educational institution carefully and try to find out as much as you can about their ethos, traditions, activities, and reputation. Make clear notes and build paragraphs of well-prepared writing gradually and with confidence.
  • Lack of structure or a piece missing from the required package will set your application back. It is extremely important to understand what information you need to provide, and to address each aspect personally and clearly. You must express why you want to attend above all others, and how important it is as part of your life plan.
  • Poor language skills, inappropriate or irrelevant vocabulary, the wrong tone, and errors in punctuation, grammar, syntax, and structure demonstrate low aptitude. An application letter is like a sample of the kind of person you are and the kind of work you are capable of. Attention to detail is vital.

Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic application letter writing tips and rules, you can check our application letter samples to link theory with practice.

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Samples for Writing an Application Letter

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