How to write a motivation letter

Are you ready to apply for a volunteering position or academic program, but have no clue how to write a motivation letter (aka motivational letter or letter of motivation)? We've got you. YoungCapital gives you everything you need to wow your future employer. We’ll walk you through how to write a sensational letter step by step in this article. Once you understand the purpose of a motivational letter and how to write it, you’ll be well on your way to successfully securing your new study or volunteering position. Read on to find out everything you need to know about a motivation letter.

What is a motivation letter?

There are very few cases where a CV is the only document you need when applying for a volunteering position or academic program. While a CV is very good at answering ‘what?’, it’s not very effective in answering ‘why?’, and this is where a motivation letter comes in. Even if you have all the qualifications, universities or volunteer employers want to know why you applied. This is a crucial piece of information, because it determines how motivated you’ll be at your new job or studies.

When applying for an educational programme or a non-profit organisation, a motivation letter gives recipients a better understanding of your reasons for applying. This document is not to be confused with a cover letter (also called covering letter), which highlights how your experience checks out with the paid position you’re applying for.

As the name suggests, a motivation letter should outline the motives behind your application. In the case of enrolling yourself for a university, you should explain why you want to attend, and what stood out to you about the programme. If you’re applying for a volunteering or trainee position, your job motivation letter should show why you care about the initiative, and what drives you to want to help.

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How to write a motivation letter

It’s key to spend a decent chunk of time and effort to write a well-thought-out letter of motivation. By doing so, you won’t risk leaving anything out that could give you an edge. To make sure that everything is included, we’ll give you a helpful outline consisting of five sections. If the organisation or university you’re applying has guidelines for the format, length, or content of your motivation letter, make sure you follow those closely. However, you can still use our helpful outline to come up with creative ideas.

1. Provide basic information

This may seem like common sense, but it’s still important to mention. If you don’t provide some basic information about the document and yourself, it’s easy for the reader to discard it altogether. Clearly title your document with ‘motivation letter’, and state the date, your name, and an email address or phone number. If you end up wow-ing the recipient with your motivational letter, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for them to contact you. If you know the name of the person responsible, also make sure to include this by writing ‘to: [recipient name]’.

2. Introduction

Like any other letter, you’ll first want to greet the recipient with ‘Dear [recipient name]’. Or, if you don’t know their name, ‘Dear [Sir or Madam]’ would fit the bill just fine. In the first sentence of your letter of motivation, clearly state the study or position you’re applying for. Then, like any piece of writing, you’ll want to grab the reader’s attention. This part is crucial, because it’ll act as fuel for the reader to continue on. Here are some expressions you can use:

  • I’ve always dreamt of becoming a [Profession], and I believe that a [Study or Position] will help me reach my goal of [Goal].
  • Because of my passion for [Field of Work], I would like to apply my experience and knowledge to help your organisation achieve its goals.
  • It’s been a long time coming for me to take the next step in my [Field of Work] career, and I feel a [Study or Position] will take it to the next level.

This section of your motivation letter should be no longer than 2 or 3 sentences, totalling up to 50 words.

3. Describe your journey and achievements

This is the main body of your motivation letter, which can be split up into multiple topics. A rule of thumb is to describe two or three different situations or achievements related to the study or position. If you’ve had a long journey already, you may want to begin with something more recent. As long as your experience is relevant to the study or position, you’re in the clear. If you’re only just laying the groundwork for a career, make sure you mention when or why the study or position sparked your interest. There are a few ways you can go about this, but here are some important topics you could cover:

  • Specify who or what influenced you to pursue this field
  • Paint in words a first-hand experience you’ve had in the field
  • Illustrate the effect your experience in the field had on your life
  • Describe an achievement that strengthened or fuelled your passion
  • Give examples of how your achievements positively affected others

This section of your motivational letter should be no longer than three short and sweet paragraphs, totalling up to 250 words.

4. Reveal your motivation

This is where your motivation letter should really shine. The previous section has covered the who, what, when, where, and how of your background and achievements. Now you’re going to answer the question ‘why?’ You’ll want to reveal your motives as clearly and accurately as possible here. Tell the reader why you believe that you’re a good fit for the study or position.

In the case of a study, you can describe why joining the programme will ultimately benefit your career, and how your contributions will benefit the programme. If you’re applying for a volunteering position, reveal why you think the role will positively impact your career. Also mention why your contributions will be beneficial to the people you’re helping.

Cover your personal strengths in this section of your motivational letter. Don’t go into too much detail, but just mention a few that would verify your chances of success. For example, if you’re volunteering in an animal shelter, highlight that your greatest strength is empathy. This will act as the final stamp on your motivation.

This section should take up no more than a paragraph of about 100-150 words.

5. Call to action

In this final section of your motivation letter, you want to leave your reader on a positive note, and prompt them to contact you. Let them know you’re hopeful about receiving a confirmation letter, and that you’d love for them to consider you for the study or position. You can also thank them for taking the time to read your letter, and let them know they can contact you if there are any questions. This section should be to the point; don’t drag your motivation letter on too long here. You’ve already said everything you wanted to say, so respect the reader’s time.

This section should take up no more than 2 to 3 sentences, totalling up to 50 words.

How to make your motivation letter stand out

Like an art piece, you’ll want to give your motivation letter a unique flair. You don’t want yours ending up in an archive folder or bin just because the reader deemed it unoriginal or robotic. So how do you go about spicing up your motivational letter?

Give it character

Although this should come naturally, you don’t want to force your letter to sound too formal or overworked. Let the reader sense who you are by the way you write. The way you can test this is to read your motivational letter out loud. If you struggle to read it naturally, or it doesn’t match how you would normally speak, it’s too overworked. Just imagine the person you’re writing it to is in the room.

Avoid complexity

Having the reader stumble through your motivation letter because of complex sentences or words isn’t going to help your case, no matter how much character you’ve given it. Go through your letter and replace complex words with simplified synonyms. Sentences longer than 20 words should be avoided as well, but don’t take this to heart, as it may hurt readability.

Stay positive

It’s okay to mention some of your limitations if they’re important to the role or study, but don’t let them dominate the letter. Touch on them briefly, but do your best to give it a positive spin. You’ll want to focus on how you can contribute with your strengths. Avoid being overconfident or positive, as they may come across as dishonest or misleading.

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Motivation letter example

Letter of Motivation


[Full Name]

[Contact Details]

Dear [Recipient],

I’m writing this letter to express my interest for the Aviation Programme at [University]. I’ve always dreamt of becoming a pilot, and I believe that this programme will be the first step to my goal of becoming a captain of a Boeing 747.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been collecting toy aeroplanes, which now take up most of the space in my cupboards. My father was a pilot himself, and I believe his passion for flying fuelled my interest in becoming one myself. I’ve always been fascinated with aircraft mechanics, and love drawing blueprints and building replicas in my spare time.

Throughout high school, I took on subjects like physics and geography, for which I was at the top of the class. I’ve taken on various science projects, including one focused on how turbines use wind to generate energy. These projects have helped me build a solid foundation for an aviation career. Although mathematics hasn’t been my strong suit, I’ve seen a clear progression over the years, and want to sharpen my skills in this area when I join your programme.

One of my most significant achievements was landing a small aircraft on a runway without help. Of course, my father was right next to me giving instructions, but I stayed calm and got the job done. It was a real challenge, but I believe it was a huge stepping stone for me. I’m aware that not many people get the opportunity to fly an aircraft so early on in life. That’s why I consider this to be one of my greatest assets to pursuing a career in aviation.

Joining the aviation programme at your university will benefit my career because of the diversity of subjects offered. The practical training in the second year of the study is what attracted me most about the programme. Most studies don’t offer a practical training course so early on, and I believe this will give me an edge when applying for jobs in the future.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I’m hopeful that you will consider me for the aviation programme, and I look forward to having contact with you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me using the details at the top of this letter.

Kind regards,

[Full Name]

Motivation letter: in short

Writing a motivation letter can be daunting, but by including the following elements, you’ll be good as gravy:

  • Basic information: title and contact details
  • Introduction: greeting and reason for writing
  • Your journey and achievements: mention relevant experience
  • Your motivation: reveal why you think you’re a good fit
  • Call to action: get the reader to contact you

If you want to stand out from the crowd, there are a couple of steps you can take.

  • Give it character: Let the reader sense the type of person you are
  • Avoid complexity: Shorten sentences and replace complex words
  • Stay positive: Minimise your weaknesses and limitations

Lastly, remember that quality goes above quantity when you write about your motivation. Apply all of the tips and tricks above, and you’ll score an interview in no time. If you want to go the extra mile, also make sure to attach a professional CV to your motivation letter. Need some help? You can use our free CV maker to give your resume a fresh new look. Good luck!

FAQs about motivation letters

  • How long should a motivation letter be?

  • If there are no guidelines given, you should aim to write about 500-700 words. This equals about 1 page single-spaced, using 12-point Arial font. It should take someone about 3-4 minutes to read your motivation letter at a normal pace. Any longer than that, and you risk losing the interest of the reader.

  • What is the purpose of a motivation letter?

  • The purpose of a motivational letter is to essentially pitch your reasons and motives for applying for an educational programme or volunteering position. It gives the reader an insight to your personality, and outlines how your efforts and time will contribute to your personal goals and the goal of the organisation or institution.

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