The Motivation Letter & CV for Admissions In Europe

We’re going to talk about those extras that schools might ask for in the application process.

Slide 1: Lesson 4: CV & Motivation Letter

Okay, so we are now on Lesson Four of the Admissions in Europe course. And today we’re going to talk about those extras that schools might ask for in the application process. It might be a CV, or a motivation letter, or an interview through Skype. And so, we’re going to talk about how you can be prepared for each of these factors.

Slide 2: Activity Brainstorm List

  • Paid Jobs: Cashier at Harris Teeter
  • Volunteer Work: Teen Court, Farmer’s Market
  • Summer Activities: GRP, Concordia, CIEE
  • School Activities/Awards: French Award, TA
  • Outside Activities/Interests: Arabic, Tyson, Current Events/International Affairs, Video Games, Travel

So let’s start with the CV, which is just another word for the resume. The first thing you’re going to want to do here is to complete the action step that was in Lesson Three, if you have not already. What this action step has you do is make a list of all of your activities and accomplishments throughout high school. You’re also going to use this list for your motivation letter. So even if you don’t think you’re going to need to do a CV for your application, still do this exercise. You want to start this as a brainstorm list, putting on everything that you can think of, including structured and organized, as well as non-structured activities.

We’re going to use one of our members as an example here He didn’t join any clubs in school, but we can still come up with a good-sized list for him. Keep in mind, this is just a brainstorm list at this time, it’s not going to be everything that we put on the actual CV.

  • Paid Jobs: Cashier at Harris Teeter

So to think about this, I’ll start with his paid jobs. He’s a cashier at a grocery store.

  • Volunteer Work: Teen Court, Farmer’s Market

And then, I go on to his volunteer work because he had community service hours, which he completed through a teen court program, where he was a juror. And also, the Carrboro farmer’s market.

  • Summer Activities: GRP, Concordia, CIEE

His summer activities, I go through then. He did these expeditions through a place out in the mountains. He did a Concordia language camps. And then, the CIEE program in Rabat he just completed this summer.

  • School Activities/Awards: French Award, TA

And then in school, again, he doesn’t have any clubs or anything, but he is serving as a TA his senior year to one of his teachers, and he has received a French award.

  • Outside Activities/Interests: Arabic, Tyson, Current Events/International Affairs, Video Games, Travel

And then, there are a number of outside activities and interests. Many of these are not things that are organized. He did self-study for Arabic, because it wasn’t offered after his freshman year when he took it. He’s very into current events and affairs. He loves video games, I’ll tell you. Travel. He has somebody he works out with.

Slide 3: Determine which are relevant

So again, it’s just a brainstorm list at this point, because from there, what we’re going to do is we’re going to look at this list, and which speak to his interest in studying outside of his home country and also the program at hand. So this student was applying to the International Studies program at Leiden University. And this program looks at politics, economics, language and culture, and then students choose a specific region to focus on in these areas.

So as we go through this, we can see that teen court has some relevance there. But the farmer’s market doesn’t. Concordia Language Villages and CIEE are both relevant, but the outdoor expeditions aren’t relevant to this. Neither does working out with Tyson. Neither of those things are relevant to his program. That said, these three things might speak to a quality that maybe we want to note in the motivation letter; something about, I don’t know, pushing himself physically, but not here for the CV. Same thing with current events and travel. It’s not right for the CV, but is something we’re going to want to touch on in the motivation letter. Video games would be relevant if you were applying to, you know, something like game design, or potentially other tech type programs. But not this one. Arabic self-study is also very important, but we have to figure out if there’s a place to put it here, or if we should wait until the motivation letter.

Slide 4: CV Structure

  • Section 1 – Basic Info
  • Section 2 – Education
  • Section 3 – Work Experience
  • Section 4 – Additional Relevant Experience & Skills

So you’re going to want to check with each school you’re applying to to see if they have specific information they want on the CV or a specific structure that they want. But if not, there are three sections that are pretty standard and the fourth that you can customize based on what you want to put on your CV.

  • Section 1 – Basic Info

So section one is going to be just the basic information; your name, your address, your email, your phone number, your date of birth.

  • Section 2 – Education

And the second section is about educational information; your school name, your predicted graduation date, when you studied there, what type of diploma it is. If this is an IB diploma, it’s important to note it. If your GPA is really good, or even pretty good, list it here. And academic awards you can put here as well.

  • Section 3 – Work Experience

And then if you’ve had any work experience, that’s going to be section three. You want to put the name of the company, when you worked there, your position, your responsibilities.

  • Section 4 – Additional Relevant Experience & Skills

And then section four is the one that you can sort of customize. It’s basically an “other” section. I like the heading personally “Additional relevant experiences and skills,” but it could be something like, you know, additional interest or you could call it activities and hobbies. Whatever it is that you still have to put on your list, what could that title be?

Slide 5: CV Tips

  • Check if the school you are applying to has a recommended structure
  • Try to limit to 1 page – no more than 2
  • Clear layout with headings and bullet points

So you’re gonna want to limit it to one page. And you also want to make sure it’s a really clear layout with headings and bullet points, so they can just look at this as a summary of your achievements and your accomplishments and who you are and how you’re a good fit for this program. So basically, you’re just going to create your format now and plug in the information that you have from your brainstorm list.

Slide 6: Motivation Letter

So now, we will move on to the motivation letter. So hang on to your brainstorm list, the original one before you crossed stuff out about your CV. We’re going to expand on there on this though, with another brainstorm list in the action step part of the resources. But basically, a motivation letter should look at why you want to go to this school and this program, and why you’re suited for this particular program at this particular school. So it’s really important that this letter is individualized to the specific school and program that you’re applying for and it’s not just this general letter that you’re sending to all of the schools you’re applying to.

  • Dig into the program details

The first thing you should do is really dig into the program website, and make a list of the specifics about that particular program, or the school that you find appealing, that you find interesting, or are well suited to your strengths. You’re going to want to incorporate this into the letter as one of the things they’re looking for, is that you have an understanding of the program. So when you make this list, this brainstorm list, this is just for you at this point, not the essay.

  • What qualities/strengths do you have that make you a good fit for this program?

So then, this next brainstorm list is going to be again about that fit for you to program and program to you. So make a list for yourself about what qualities you have that leads you to being interested in studying in a foreign country.

  • What interests/passions/experiences do you have that are connected to your interest in studying in this country?

You’re going to want to connect this when you can to the particular country that you’re applying to or the city. Maybe it’s that you visited there at some point and you fell in love with it. Maybe it’s that you have family history from that area. Whatever it might be. Is there something, a connection you have to that specific country?  Maybe your specific traits, the qualities you have that make you want to study outside of your home country, or being adventurous, maybe it’s that you’re curious about the greater world, or that you’re unwilling to accept the status quo?

  • What interests/passions/experiences do you have that are a good fit for this program?

What qualities do you have that leads you to being a good fit for this program and the program for you? Maybe it’s that you have an appreciation for other people’s perspectives? Again, these are qualities, not interests we’re talking about at this point.  Then we do want to get into the interest. What interests, passions, or experiences do you have that are connected to your interest to study in a foreign country?What interests or passions or experiences do you have that are a good fit for this program? So this is where our student would, for instance, incorporate his love of travel or his Arabic self-study, or his interest in current events. The interest, passions and experiences about living in a foreign country. Maybe it’s about different outdoor activities that that country offers that are aligned with yours. Maybe it’s the history of the area. You know, again, I mentioned before the qualities, and I meant to say that here, so I apologize for any confusion. But this is where your experiences, maybe it’s that your heritage is from that area.

  • How is this program aligned with your future goals?

So the other thing you’re gonna want to touch on is how this program or experience is aligned with your future goals. This is also going to demonstrate your understanding of the program, as well as fit.

  • How did your interests pertaining to the program and/or study abroad develop?

And also, make a note of how your interest pertaining to this program or study abroad, how that developed. Maybe that’s going to be something you incorporate, maybe it’s not. But again, it’s good to have all this information together as you start to work on this letter.

So now, between the list you made here, the digging around you did about the program and the school, and your CV brainstorm list, you have all the content that’s going to be needed for this letter, and it’s just a matter of organizing it.

Slide 7: Motivation Letter

  • See if there are guidelines, prompts, or specific questions the school requests

So some schools and some applications are going to have guidelines or prompts or suggested content. Others will give you vague directions, at best.

  • If they don’t give suggestions around length, keep it under 2 pages

If they don’t give you a link, err on the side of brevity, no longer than one to two pages.

Slide 8: Motivation Letter Structure

So let’s talk about the structure. And this is if they don’t provide you a structure that you should follow, which most of them won’t.

  • Show knowledge of program in a section about why you want to study there, why this particular program at this particular school.

So the first thing you want to do is show your knowledge of the program in a section about why you want to study there. Why this particular program at this particular school. This is some thing you still have notes about from the activity you’ll be doing.

  • Fit to study abroad

The next part of the section in your outline, note the reasons that you are a good fit to study abroad.

  • Fit to program including future goals

Third section outline, your fit to the program, including future goals.

  • Strong ending statement – confident, positive

And then you want to end with a really strong ending statement that’s competent, and it’s positive.

Slide 9: Have others review to make sure the letter demonstrates..

  • An understanding of the program and the school
  • Why you would be a good fit for the program
  • How the program ties to your future goals

You also want to have others read it, you know, whether that’s somebody at school, friends or family. I would say have no less than two to three people read your letter and ask them to make sure that the letter demonstrates an understanding of the program and the school, why you would be good fit for the program, and how the program ties to your future goals. Maybe you just want them to underline those areas that answer those three sections. You don’t want to hear just “oh, it’s a good letter, or it’s not a good letter,” you want to make sure that these things are conveyed through the letter. Of course, have someone check your grammar, and spelling, and all that too. But the content here is really important.

Slide 10: Skype Interviews

  • Often used to check English Proficiency

So finally, some schools are going to ask that you have a Skype interview. What I understand, except for the schools like Sciences Po where there’s like that hardcore interview with the article and all that that we talked about, a lot of schools use Skype interviews to make sure that the language proficiency matches the scores they’re seeing. So if you’re a native English speaker, this is going to be a breeze.

  • Discussion of Motivation Letter – have discussion points and examples to expand on your letter

Regardless, it’s generally just a discussion of your motivation letter. So take that motivation letter and next to each point, note a couple of examples that you don’t have in the letter. So you’re not just regurgitating the letter that they’ve already read and is likely in front of them. That you are prepared with information that expands on that.

Slide 11: Motivation Letter: Action Steps

So the action steps for this are just to go through what we went through before. Use a graphic organizer, if that’s how you work best, or just a brainstorm list. And then you’re going to want to organize this information into sort of an outline setting so that you’re prepared when you start this process. You have the motivation letter pretty much ready to go and plug into whatever format they provide.

So you’re ready to apply. This is pretty exciting. And I look forward to finding out where this journey takes you.