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Graduate School Letters of Intent

Grace Bernhardt MSU Writing Center


Adapted from presentation materials developed by Jill McKay, Stephanie Sheffield, and Kym Buchanan

About the Writing Center


Main Writing Center 300 Bessey Hall M-F 9-5 By appointment 432-3610 Stop by and talk to receptionist Library Satellite Across from Cybercafe Sun-Th 3-10 p.m. Walk-in only First-come, first-served

Letters of Intent
Also known as: Letter of introduction Personal statement/essay Statement of professional interests Statement of career goals

The MAPS Tool


MAPS is a tool to help you through the writing process. It is a tool for thinking, planning, writing, evaluating, and reflecting. Mode Audience Purpose Situation

Mode
What are the characteristics of a letter of intent? Are there conventions or standards for the formal features of a letter of intent? What format would be most effective? How might you organize/structure your document?

Mode, contd
Does it have a title? What language is most appropriate? How can we use examples? How should we use examples?

Audience
We can write a more effective letter of intent if we have a clear understanding of the audience we are writing for. Who will read your letter of intent? In most cases, we're talking about faculty who teach in the program that you're applying to. How much do you know about the department to which you are applying? Do your research!

Audience, contd
What do we know about their expectations for your letter of intent? What do they hope to learn from it? What kinds of evidence do they privilege? How does it factor into their decisionmaking process?

Purpose
What is the purpose of a letter of intent?
If you're trying to convince someone of something, what is it?

Again, put yourself in your readers positionWhat is the departments purpose in asking you to submit this document?

Purpose, contd
What do you expect your letter of intent to accomplish for you? What impression do you want to leave with your reader(s)? How does the letter of intent function within the application process? How does it relate to other materials, like forms, cover letters, references, CV, etc.?

Situation
Strategy What do you know about the particular school and program you're applying to (that maybe other applicants may not know)? What is it about your skill set, experience, or interests that sets you apart?

Situation, contd
Planning
What resources are available to you that might help you write your letter of intent? How can you build in time for feedback and revision?

Logistics
What are the university guidelines? When is your application due?

So what might a letter of intent look like?


Introduction
Catchy example that shows your interest in the field Mention the program you are applying for

Supporting paragraphs detailing your background and skills that relate to the program
Address questions they asked Summarize your qualifications and establish fit Detail your long term goals

Conclusion
Tie together loose ends Reiterate your interest in the program

Sample Prompts
MSU: asc.msu.edu/programs/application.html
All applicants are required to submit a one-page personal statement giving an academic and intellectual biography and reasons for seeking the degree.

Northwestern:

www.communication.northwestern.edu/csd/programs/g raduate The statement of purpose should be limited to 500 words. At the bottom of your statement of purpose, please list the following essay question and your answer to it. In your opinion, what are the two areas of communication sciences and disorders that interest you the most and why? (please do NOT use anecdotes in your answer)

Sample Prompts
Western Michigan University: www.wmich.edu/hhs/sppa/graduate/admission.ht ml Discuss the reasons you have decided upon a career in speech-language pathology or audiology, any plans you have for advanced training, your eventual professional objectives, including job settings and disorder types that are of special interest to you, and the reasons you are applying to Western Michigan University. Additionally, in view of this departments interest in promoting diversity of background and experience within the profession, feel free to describe any way in which your admission might further this goal.

Sample Prompts
What area of speech-language pathology are you interested in focusing on and why? What faculty member would you like to have as a mentor and why? What your career goals? What, in your opinion, are the two most important unresolved issues in the field? How could these be addressed through research?

Challenges
Find a way to make your story unique and interesting. Be specific. Dont just say you will make a good speech pathologistback this up with evidence from previous experience.

Create a first paragraph that will really hook the reader and keep their interest.

Things to Avoid
Clichs and anecdotes, too much personal information Ive always wanted to help people I want to make a difference Your goal is to convince the admissions committee that you are serious about doing graduate level work. Careless mistakes in grammar, spelling, typos Making stuff up!

Things to Avoid
Including experiences from high school Controversial subjects Don't be tempted to use the same letter for all applicationsyour audience will know if you try this.
Tailor your response to each set of questions being asked.

Strategies for Revision


You are writing to discover, so revision may be critical to weed out things that are less interesting or less relevant Be sure you answer the question Be specific Will the committee know enough about what you're writing about? Will the committee feel bored or condescended?

Strategies for Revision


Managing length Stay within length requirement Cutting or expanding What's most important? What's worth repeating? Think themes Think flow Think arguments and evidence (more, less)

Strategies for Revision


Save everything Read it aloud Awkward phrases or sentences Quality of writing reflects on you Have someone else read it Writing must stand on its own Someone with experience in the field Someone with experience on admissions committees

Resources
The Writing Center can help! Make an appointment at main Writing Center Stop by the Library walk-in hours

Talk to an advisor at the Career Services Office Make an appointment online at: www.csp.msu.edu/students/advising

Online resources
MSU Career Services Office www.csp.msu.edu/students/advanceddegrees /writing-a-personal-statement UC Berkeley Career Center Advice career.berkeley.edu/Grad/GradStatement.stm Purdue Writing Center Advice: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/pw/ p_perstate.html