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Cover Letter for Graduate School: Sample & How to Write It

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Our customers have been hired by:

Maybe it’s Africana studies, molecular genetics, or environmental management.

Whatever the focus, you need a cover letter great enough to get you a meeting with the grad school admissions committee.

No problem.

This grad school cover letter guide will show you:

  • A graduate school cover letter sample perfect for grad school applications.
  • Examples of the ideal components on a cover letter for graduate school applications.
  • Tips for using the small space in a grad program cover letter most effectively.
  • How to write a cover letter for grad school sure to appease the admissions committee.

Want to write your cover letter fast? Use our cover letter builder. Choose from 20+ professional cover letter templates that match your resume. See actionable examples and get expert tips along the way.

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Sample cover letter for a resume—See more cover letter examples and create your cover letter here.

Do you always need a cover letter for graduate school?

Many schools don’t require it, opting for a statement of purpose instead. But—

Always check your prospective school’s webpage for the required graduate application materials. Sometimes a grad school cover letter might be compulsory — just like a graduate school resume.

Writing a different academia-related cover letter? Check out these dedicated guides:

Want to explore your options further? See our full selection of cover letter examples for every career: Best Cover Letter Examples.

To start things off, here’s Zety’s example of a grad school cover letter:

Graduate School Cover Letter Sample

Gabrielle Fernandes Costa

1505 Southern Street

Long Island City, NY 11101

June 30, 2019

Dr. Isabelle Holmes

Department of Physical Sciences

The State University of New York at Stony Brook

100 Nicolls Rd.

Stony Brook, NY 11794

Dear Dr. Holmes,

With great pleasure, I would like to submit my application for the Master of Science In Geography program at the Department of Physical Sciences at SUNY Stony Brook. After recently completing my bachelor’s studies, this graduate program is the perfect path forward for me towards my goal of joining the Arctic Research Institute.

As a graduate of Brown University’s Bachelor of Science in Geological & Earth Sciences program, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by some of the greatest minds in these fields. Under their tutelage, I’ve honed my observational and analytical skills, as well as my knowledge of report-taking and reading measurements. I also had the life-changing experience of working with the preeminent polar explorer, Dr. Gilford, on her summer quantifying the rapidly receding coastline of the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

Below my signature, you’ll find the application documents requested from me from the university website. If there is anything further from me you need, please give me a call, and I’ll get to it right away. Thank you very much for your time and consideration of my graduate school application.

Sincerely,

Gabrielle Fernandes Costa

Enclosed:

  • Graduate Admission Application
  • Undergraduate Transcripts
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Standardized Test Scores
  • Personal Statement / Essay
  • Resume
  • 2x Reference Letters

That was our sample cover letter for graduate school programs.

Here’s how to write your cover letter for graduate school:

1. Address Your Grad School Cover Letter Correctly

A cover letter for grad school may not be identical to one for job applications. 

However— 

They still follow a similar format, which means you begin at the top with a formal header and address.

Here’s how to address a cover letter for grad programs the right way:

Jason J. Davenport

832 Chatham Way

Washington, MD 20008

June 15, 2019

Dr. Margaret J. Waller

Department of Psychology

Golden Gate University

536 Mission St.

San Francisco, CA 94105

Simple, right?

You list your name and address first, leave a space, then follow it by the date you’re writing or submitting this grad school cover letter.

Then, leave a space again before addressing the graduate program director or other person who will decide on your admittance. 

Use their name and title, then the academic department they’re in, and finally the university name and address.

The address on a graduate school program cover letter is probably the easiest portion of the whole writing process. 

But— 

If you don’t add it correctly, you might turn the admissions committee member off before they even start reading!

Pro Tip: We told you to check your school’s specific requirements to see if you need a cover letter at all. However, if you do need one, they could have a particular way to format it or ask you to include a special statement (here’s an example from Drexel). Always read carefully!

Looking for more strategies for formatting a cover letter? Read this guide: Cover Letter Format

2. Introduce Yourself First on a Graduate School Cover Letter

Before we get to the good stuff, segue into the cover letter intro with a simple cover letter salutation.

Here are two grad school cover letter greeting examples:

Wrong
Dear Program Administrator,
RIGHT
Dear Dr. Humphrey,

As you can guess, the wrong one is because it doesn’t address someone specifically.

One look at it, and they’ll toss your graduate school application out with window.

Always address the person directly!

Pro Tip: Scour the university’s website to find the graduate program administrator. Another option is to use LinkedIn—it doesn’t have to be only for job seekers. 

We continue with your introduction paragraph.

On a cover letter for graduate school admission, the first paragraph should:

  • briefly introduce you and state your interest in applying, 
  • list the graduate program you’re aiming to take part in, and 
  • give a few basic details about your academic background thus far.

Here are two cover letter examples for graduate school opening statements:

WRONG
Hello, my name is Jasper, and I’m excited to apply for this grad program. I have recently finished my bachelor’s degree, and I want to keep on learning.
RIGHT
With great pleasure, I would like to submit my application for the Master of Science In Geography program at the Department of Physical Sciences at SUNY Stony Brook. After recently completing my bachelor’s studies, this graduate program is the perfect path forward for me towards my goal of joining the Arctic Research Institute.

The first example does seem captivating, at first, but a graduate school application is not a place to be informal. On top of that, it doesn’t specify the program you’re applying to.

In the second example, all that changes.

It’s short, tailored, direct, and it is academically professional— 

Just the kind of intro they want.

Pro Tip: Another option, if you’re stuck on content for your intro, is to explain how you found out about this graduate certificate or master’s program. Did a professor recommend you? Perhaps it was promoted at a conference? They’d be interested to find out!

Want more examples of cover letter openings? See this guide: How to Start a Cover Letter: 20+ Great Opening Lines & Paragraphs

3. Explain Your Purpose for Applying to This Particular Graduate Program

You’ve explained your interest in a particular program, and they see that you can see yourself there.

Now— 

Make it clear to the supervisor or admissions board member that you belong there.

The body of a cover letter for graduate program applications should include:

  • More information on your undergraduate academic studies.
  • A few examples of skills you’ve acquired relevant to this grad program.
  • Any experience gained which is applicable to your graduate program.

Here are two sample cover letters for graduate schools (body section):

WRONG
I’ve learned many skills in my undergraduate studies, including creative writing, statistics, and European history. On top of that, I wrote for the university paper as the local events journalist.
RIGHT
As a graduate of Brown University’s Bachelor of Science in Geological & Earth Sciences program, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by some of the greatest minds in these fields. Under their tutelage, I’ve honed my observational and analytical skills, as well as my knowledge of report-taking and reading measurements. I also had the life-changing experience of working with the preeminent polar explorer, Dr. Gilford, on her summer quantifying the rapidly receding coastline of the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

How about that?

The first one: 

  • is way too short 
  • lists irrelevant skills (we’re applying for a geography program here), and 
  • doesn’t give appropriate experience.

The second example is a winner, and it shows you are, as well.

Pro Tip: Name-dropping on a grad school cover letter can be risky business. While it’s more than appropriate to name one or two professors or other academics, don’t exceed that. Too many names dropped drops your chances. Also, only mention people relevant to your program.

Need more tips for cover letter greatness? Check this post out: 35+ Successful Cover Letter Tips, Advice & Guidelines (With Examples)

4. Close the Cover Letter for Graduate School Succinctly

You’re just about there.

You’ve explained to them what makes you a great candidate for this particular grad program, and you’ve given skills and experience to support it.

Now, let’s wrap it up.

Here are two grad school cover letter examples of closing statements:

WRONG
I really appreciate your time, and I look forward to a call back!
RIGHT
Below my signature, you’ll find the application documents requested from me from the university website. If there is anything further from me you need, please give me a call, and I’ll get to it right away. Thank you very much for your time and consideration of my graduate school application.

Here, though you’re excited for the opportunity, remain professional. It’s a graduate school, so lose the exclamation marks and ditch the informalty.

Pro Tip: Don’t use the last paragraph to include any more points which support your application. If they’re crucial, add them in the previous paragraph. Save this one for a simple thank you and conclusion.

Want to see more great examples of cover letter endings? Check out this article: How to End a Cover Letter [20+ Examples of Great Closing Paragraphs]

5. Sign Off With a List of Enclosed Grad Program Application Documents

To close it off, simply add a valediction (or complimentary close) and your name:

RIGHT

Sincerely,

Gabrielle Fernandes Costa

If you will hand-sign this document, add additional spacing to allow for your signature.

And, finally— 

The list of enclosed documents:

RIGHT

Enclosed:

  • Graduate Admission Application
  • Undergraduate Transcripts
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Standardized Test Scores
  • Resume
  • Personal Statement / Essay
  • 2x Reference Letters

That’s it!

Some grad school applicants choose to add a sentence detailing their enclosed documents in the closing paragraph. That’s fine, as well, as long as you include it.

Pro Tip: List your enclosed materials in descending order of importance, usually the way they list it on the university or graduate school’s website.

Looking for a perfect template for your reference pages? Have a look at this article: How to List References on a Resume

But remember—

A cover letter without a strong graduate school resume (or CV) won’t mean a thing.

When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional resume template here for free.

When you’re done, our online resume builder will score your resume and our resume checker will tell you exactly how to make it better.

Key Takeaway

So, there you have it—

Here’s what you need to include on a cover letter for graduate school:

  • Your name and full mailing address.
  • The date of the cover letter’s writing.
  • The name of the professor you’re writing to.
  • The department, school, and school’s address.
  • A brief introduction paragraph proclaiming your interest.
  • A quick background of your education and experience.
  • Skills and other factors which support your application.
  • A thank you and a short ending paragraph.
  • A list of all your enclosed documents for their convenience.

Do you have a specific grad school cover letter scenario not mentioned here? Need help on your cover letter for graduate school applications? Raise your hand by shooting us over a comment in the space below. Thanks for reading!

About Zety’s Editorial Process

This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.

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Christian Eilers, CPRW
Christian is a career expert and Certified Professional Resume Writer. His guides cover every aspect of the career spectrum, from job hunting and acing interviews to settling in on the first days of a new career. With Christian's guidance, job seekers can navigate the job market with confidence and make the most of their career opportunities.
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