What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that you submit as part of your PhD application (alongside your CV). Its purpose is to introduce you and briefly summarize your professional background.
On average, your cover letter should be from 250 to 400 words long. A good cover letter can spark the Professor’s interest and get them to read your CV.
A bad cover letter, on the other hand, might mean that your application is going directly to the paper shredder. So, to make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s essential to know how to write a convincing cover letter.
What Is An Academic Cover Letter?
An academic cover letter is a written document that accompanies your CV and application form when applying for a PhD. It’s different from a CV as instead of being a structured summary of your skills and experience, it is a summary of why you believe you are suited for a particular PhD programme.
As a result, all academic covering letters should be tailored for the specific position you are applying for and addressed to the supervisor who is overseeing the project.
They also shouldn’t repeat what is already stated in your CV, but rather expand on the details most related to the position you are applying to.
How to Write Cover Letter for PhD Program?
Keep in mind, though, that a cover letter is a supplement to your CV, not a replacement. Meaning, you don’t just repeat whatever is mentioned in your CV. If you’re writing a cover letter for the first time, writing all this might seem pretty tough.
After all, you’re probably not a professional writer. The thing is, though, you don’t need to be creative, or even any good at writing. All you have to do is follow a tried-and-tested format:
• Header – Input contact information
• Greeting the Professor
• Opening paragraph – Grab the reader’s attention with 2-3 of your top achievements
• Second paragraph – Explain why you’re the perfect candidate for the PhD program
• Third paragraph – Explain why you’re a good match for the his/her lab
• Formal closing
• Have a strong opening statement that makes clear why you want the job and what you bring to the table.
• Be succinct — a professor should be able to read your letter at a glance.
• Share an accomplishment that shows you can address the challenges the day to day research is facing.
• Try to be funny — too often it falls flat.
• Send a generic cover letter — customize each one for the specific job.
• Go overboard with flattery — be professional and mature.
Double-check Your Cover Letter Formatting
A professional cover letter is normally 200–350 words, single-spaced, and uses either US Letter (USA) or A4 (Europe and elsewhere) page size.
It should be typed with a standard cover letter font like Arial or Calibri, and the font size should be between 10.5 and 12 points (just make sure it’s readable). Additionally, your cover letter margins should be between 1″ and .5″ on each side to ensure it’s easy to read.
And all of the content should be left-aligned except for your own contact details, which can be centered. Your cover letter’s format won’t win you the job, but it can lose you the job if done haphazardly.
Cover Letter Writing Checklist
Does your cover letter heading include all essential information?
- Full Name
- Professional email
- Phone Number
- Relevant Social Media Profiles
Do you address the right person? I.e. hiring manager in the university / your future direct supervisor Does your introductory paragraph grab the reader’s attention?
Did you mention 2-3 of your top achievements?
Did you use numbers and facts to back up your experience?
Do you successfully convey that you’re the right pro for the PhD program?
Did you identify the core requirements?
Did you successfully convey how your experiences help you fit the requirements perfectly?
Do you convince the hiring manager / your future direct supervisor that you’re passionate about the research program you’re applying to?
Did you identify the top 3 things that you like about the his/her research area?
Did you avoid generic reasons for explaining your interest in the lab?
Did you finalize the conclusion with a call to action?
Did you use the right formal closure for the cover letter?
Sample Cover Letter for PhD Program
Dear Dr. xxx,
Thank you very much for taking the time to meet with me yesterday morning about employment opportunities with Global Education Associates. I am even more enthusiastic about the work you do now that I have had the chance to learn more about it.
As we discussed, my experience at WorldTeach and my extensive international travel have instilled in me the desire to foster educational opportunities worldwide, and to promote cross-cultural understanding of educational methods and adapt them as appropriate in developing countries. I am particularly interested in the Educating for Global Citizenship Program due to its commitment to meeting the educational needs of the emerging global community by offering teachers, youth leaders, and community organizers ways to comprehend and respond to the critical and creative task of educating the world in the 21st century.
Thank you once again for your time and consideration. I look forward to speaking with you further about the contribution I could make to your organization and its constituents.
Sample Cover Letter for PhD Program
Dear Prof. Ramos,
I found your name through Firsthand Advisers and saw that you completed your PhD in Applied Math before beginning your work as a quantitative analyst. I will be completing my PhD in Biology at Harvard next summer and am interested in learning more about how I might use my quantitative and analytical skills in investment banking.
Banking is a career option that I have been reading and thinking about for some time. While I do not have specific work experience in finance, I am an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times and have spoken to a few former members of my department about their own decisions to leave academe and use their skill sets in the private sector. Working as a quantitative analyst appeals to me because I feel it would allow me to continue to use and develop my mathematical modeling and statistics skills, while indulging my fascination for the business world.
I will be available by video chat or phone week of October 9th and would greatly appreciate the chance to speak with you about your experience at Wall Street Bank. If this time frame is not convenient for you, I am happy to arrange a time.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.