How to Write a Letter of Interest & Qualifications

Graduate schools have smaller and more focused programs than undergraduate degree programs.

Applying to graduate school is not as straightforward as applying for an undergraduate degree. Many graduate schools require items in your application that you may not have heard of, such as a curriculum vitae or a letter of interest and qualifications. Letters of interest are similar to cover letters for employment because they express interest in a position, explain qualifications and experiences and persuade the audience to select your application for an interview. The main difference is that a letter of interest is targeted toward gaining a spot in a graduate program instead of a job.

Type your address to begin the letter. Skip a line space and type the full date. Skip an additional line space and type the name and title of the director of the graduate program, her department name and the department address to which you are applying. If you do not know the name of the director of the graduate program, call the department or search for it on its website. Never address a letter of interest to a general committee unless you are directed to do so; it shows lack of initiative and professionalism.

Create the salutation by typing "Dear Dr. (director of program's last name)," followed by a colon. The director of graduate studies is almost always a Ph.D., so use "Dr." instead of "Mr." or "Ms." No one will be offended if you are incorrect on this account, but check the department website to confirm the appropriate title.

Begin the first paragraph by telling the director that you are writing to apply to her program. Name the degree you are seeking because there may be more than one graduate degree in the department. State that you would like to be considered for the program.

Explain your career goals and how this program will help you achieve them. If you are applying to a Ph.D. program, identify an area of research interest and discuss the work of a faculty member or members that you find particularly compelling.

Explain your educational qualifications, such as your undergraduate degree and minor. Highlight relevant details from your education, such as internship experience or extracurricular activities, and explain how these qualifications make you a good candidate for the program.

Provide detail about any relevant work, internship or volunteer experience that is related to the graduate program for which you are applying. Many graduate programs prefer on-the-job experience, so explain how these positions or experiences make you a strong candidate.

Close the letter by telling the graduate coordinator that you would appreciate the opportunity to discuss your qualifications in more detail. Provide any contact information that does not appear in your header, such as a telephone number or e-mail address. Thank the graduate program director for her time.

Type "Sincerely," followed by three line spaces. Type your full name. Print the letter and sign above your typed name in blue or black ink.

  • After two weeks, call the department to make sure that it has received your letter and other materials that you have sent.

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.