7 Not-So-Obvious Tips for Writing an Appealing College Cover Letter

Posted February 12, 2014 by
Leslie Anglesey

Leslie Anglesey

Writing an appealing college cover letter these days is a completely different animal to tangle with versus the outdated standards of yesteryear. Oftentimes it’s the little not-so-obvious rules of the game that we miss, because they tend to change with the times. This article provides you with 7 tips that can help you get an edge.

These days every little bit helps, and we’ve got to use everything at our disposal to stick out above and beyond the noise. Let’s start with the not-so-obvious basics.

Rule #1: NEVER Lack Personality

If you thought things were competitive during the age of paperwork, it’s only gotten 10 x worse in the digital era. To catch the right person’s eyes in the college HR department, your cover letter needs to sing with millennial personality. They’ll probably give it a glance because they’re paid to, so you need to make a good impression.

  • Individuality: The real juicy data is inside, so your cover letter is your chance to show this college who you are. There are many ways you can perform this feat through formatting and wording. You should use the ones that are best suited to your individual personality without going overboard.
  • Dedication: Start with a friendly greeting and then communicate your overflowing dedication to they’re alma mater. In their unique school pride and philosophy, not necessarily yours. It’s not all about you.
  • Interest: Along with showing your innate dedication, demonstrate your genuine interest and intrigue in new developments at the college. Don’t just be another someone looking for a degree.

An easy example would be studying up on the college’s history along with their area so you can mention something about things that matter most to them. How do you plan on helping this particular college become more successful?

Rule #2: Google Them or Go Home

If you don’t know anything about the college you’re applying to, don’t even bother. It’s a waste of time. You’ll come across as another generic addition to their ever-growing pile of applications. The least you can do before writing your cover letter is Googling them and getting a more in-depth idea of what they’re about.

Rule #3: When in Doubt, Don’t Address Anyone Specific

If you weren’t instructed to address anyone specific by name or you’re not sure who is going to read the cover letter, than don’t address anyone at all. Speak conversationally and be engaging, but don’t use any names you saw on the school website or anything.

Rule #4: Format like a Copywriter

Copywriters format to close a sale. They construct the content so that it reads like a sales funnel from beginning to end. The greeting, an intro story to engage, shorter paragraphs, tight sentences etc. Copywriters also make liberal use of things like bolds, italics, bullet/numbered lists and subtitles so readers can easily scan through the information. It helps.

Rule #5: Get to the Point & Talk Specifics

While keeping your personality, dedication and interest visible, minimize anything that could be considered “fluff.” Don’t fill the air on the pages with irrelevant nonsense. Personality doesn’t mean wasting people’s time. Use your cover letter to demonstrate that you’re destined to be a part of their community of successful graduates and you’re ready to starting studying immediately.

Pretend you’re the school president. What would you want to hear an aspiring student say? Think seriously about that question. Pretend you’re addressing the (not specifically or by name) president. Don’t lose your cover letter composure and don’t sweat! But…

Rule #6: Make Your Move

Each cover letter you write should be a serious endeavor, not a mindless chore. Use your cover to make your move. This is serious business to you, and anyone who reads your cover letter should get this from the “intonation” of your writing and formatting.

One of the greatest success/life coaches of all time, Tony (Anthony) Robbins routinely challenges his audience to make their move. Stop doing the conservative. Stop wasting time. Get serious about your college application and make your move! Why are you applying? What does it mean to you to get into this particular institution of learning?

Rule #7: Close with a CLEAR CTA/Pitch

If you were in their office, you would be confidently looking them in the eyes conversationally and unobtrusively demonstrating you’re a perfect fit for their college. Before you left that office, you would make sure to put in a final word and let them know exactly how to get ahold of you.

Do the same exact thing with your cover letter. Say what you would say with only 3 minutes in the hot seat. Get to the point while getting across that winning and ambitious personality of yours.

Share your own special tips and tricks to creating the perfect college cover letter. How do people get an edge and get in?

Author bio:

Leslie Anglesey works in the University of Southern California. She is a regular contributor to Essay Tigers, a company that provides academic writing tips.

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