What Should Be Included in a College Application Letter?

A well-written application letter can gain the attention of college admissions officers.
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Some colleges require applicants to attach a letter to their application packets. This letter is similar to a business cover letter, highlighting relevant experiences and emphasizing your interest in the school. A well-written college application letter can increase an admissions officer's interest in your application and encourage her to investigate the areas you've highlighted.

1 Letter vs. Essay

If your school does not require an application essay, your application letter is a replacement for the essay and needs to be longer and more detailed than a traditional cover letter. Anything that's not highlighted elsewhere in your application packet should be included. If the letter is a supplement to your essay, keep it under one page. Use it to point out interesting information in your application packet and emphasize why the school you've chosen is the right school for you.

2 Achievements

While anyone can enroll in activities, achieving a goal shows that you have talent and a strong work ethic. College admissions committees are interested in your achievements and the ways in which your achievements can benefit their school. Your letter should build on information in your application rather than regurgitating it. You might, for example, mention how your volunteer work helped you become interested in a field of study and highlight ways in which you want to expand upon this volunteer work in college.

3 Goals

Colleges are more likely to admit students who have specific, achievable goals that the college can help them fulfill. Your letter will be more effective if you focus on potential future achievements in addition to what you've done in the past. If you've chosen a major already, discussing your interest in that major can be a strong selling point. If you've excelled at a particular extracurricular activity and want to continue this activity in college, mention it.

4 School Choice

While it may be tempting to send the same letter to each school, admissions committees want to know that you're interested in their school and why you think you're a good fit. Interests, activities and achievements that correspond with the educational mission of your chosen college can help you stand out. If you're applying to a religious school, for example, you might mention your volunteer time at your church and your admiration of the college's community service program. A strong letter shows that you will bring something positive to the college community.

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.