About two years ago, I was preparing my application for an Erasmus Mundus Master and Scholarship. I was excited and nervous at the same time because I was convinced that I had found the perfect programme for me, but how could I also convince the selection committee of that?
That’s exactly the role of the motivation letter for your scholarship application. Your motivation letter should let the selection committee know three important things:
- Your Interest: Why are you interested in this programme?
- Your Educational and Professional Preparedness: How have your previous education and job experiences prepared you for this programme?
- Your Future Professional Development: How do you plan to use the learnings from this programme in your future professional development?
To answer these three questions, it is imperative that you read the description of the programme carefully and know exactly what the programme is about and what the career possibilities are for its graduates. If you want to convince the committee about your suitability for a particular programme, you have to be convinced yourself first, and for that, you need to know the programme.
I cannot highlight enough the importance of knowing the programme because if you write just a generic motivation letter, the committee might assume that your interest in that particular programme is not strong enough or that you do not know the programme well enough.
It is also crucial that you explain how you will use the learnings from that programme in your future career development and particularly, how you will use the skills you acquire to contribute to the development of your community and your country. Bear in mind that a scholarship is an investment, so you have to tell the committee why it is important that they invest in you. How are you going to use and multiply the return on their investment?
Remember that higher education is —in many cases— funded by taxpayer contributions, so our responsibility as graduates is to return those investments by using our newly acquired skills for the benefit of the people.
My own experience
I applied for the Master in Children’s Literature, Media, and Culture. When writing my motivation letter, I highlighted how my bachelor’s degree in literature, my previous experience as an elementary school teacher, and my work at a publishing house had helped me develop some skills that were relevant to the program.
I also explained why my country needed a professional in children’s literature. I had empirical knowledge of the low reading comprehension levels in my context and the lack of a culture of reading for pleasure, but I did some research, so I could support the arguments of my motivation letter with real data from the Ministry of Education and other educational institutions. I believe that this showed the committee not only that I was aware of the educational situation in my country but also that I did not rely only on my perception but aimed to have a general panorama based on data from research. (An important frame of mind in academia.)
In the end, I wrote about some concrete projects that I aimed to develop in my country. They were rather small projects, but I wanted to present attainable and realistic goals, so I kept my scope small but my hopes high.
I hope you find this information useful and that it helps you calm the sudden anxiety that sometimes appears when preparing your application. Best of luck to you! I hope you can soon be part of the amazing experience of an Erasmus Mundus International Master.