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Cover Letter for Graduate School: Examples & Writing Tips

Most grad school applicants have the grades, passion, and skills to excel there. Not everyone, however, can put that across in a few short paragraphs of a grad school cover letter.

Dave Rygielski
Dave Rygielski
Career Expert
Cover Letter for Graduate School: Examples & Writing Tips

The competition for graduate schools can be fierce. Nobody’s applying here if they don’t have the grades or a passion for the subject. This is why a personal touch can go a long way. Cover letters for graduate school are rarely required, as many institutions have their process fully online. However, if you didn’t have to write one, you wouldn’t have searched for this guide. 

Most people will write an unimpressive description of their prior education and a list of attachments. This is your chance to stand out. So let’s make it a good one.

In this guide:

  • A graduate school cover letter sample that gets the top marks, every time.
  • How to format your cover letter for graduate school.
  • A fill-in-the-blanks template that will produce your grad school cover letter within 15 minutes.

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If you're looking for a different education-related cover letter sample, have a look at:

Haven't found what you're looking for? Check all our best cover letter examples.

First, let’s check out this graduate school cover letter sample. See how it makes the best use of this opportunity.

1. Graduate School Cover Letter Sample

This sample cover letter for graduate school is from Joanna, seeking admission to a Master of Arts in Philosophy program. 

Here’s how to pass the first time around: 

Cover Letter For Graduate School

Joanna Perreault

245 Lucy Lane

Bloomington, IN 47408



Bloomington, Dec 16, 2019

Dr. John Smith

Columbia University

708 Philosophy Hall, 

1150 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY 10027

Dear Dr. Smith,

I am pleased to submit my application to the Master of Arts in Philosophy program at Columbia University. Given my previous academic background, a BA in Linguistics & Philosophy from Boston University (4.0 GPA), the graduate program at Columbia with its modules in Philosophy of Language is a perfect fit for me to expand my expertise and make a step towards my goal of completing a PhD in Philosophy, focusing on the Philosophy of Language and the way microaggressive and dog-whistle language in politics shapes public opinion.

While working on my BA at Boston University, I have had the incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of linguistics research. During my studies in the ‘Topics in Knowledge, Language, and Logic’ module, I have had the opportunity to join Dr. Fraser’s research on the language of the media. My part was in the preparation stage, during initial, manual selection of parsing criteria, establishing algorithm rules and baselines. I have manually analysed the language of 300+ articles using a continuously evolving model. Several of my recommendations and insights became key tenets of the model, which you can read more about in Dr. Fraser’s letter of recommendation. All in all, I have given over 500 hours over 2 years to this project, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Together with colleagues and students from the Department of Computer Science, an algorithm was built to parse media content and use NLP through Python to analyse the language within. The sentiments of each media outlet could then be plotted on a subject-specific spectrum. Over 500,000 articles and 400 million words were analysed. One of the recommendations for further research was to study the implications and effects of what Dr. Fraser called ‘combative’ language on public opinion, and the proportional impact of positive vs. negative descriptions. This has now become my ambition, and I hope to complete a PhD that surveys these effects.

Please find the list of attachments and application documents below. It is compliant with the list required on the university website, but if there is anything else you require, or you have any questions, please let me know. 

Thank you,

Joanna Perreault


Graduate School Admission Application

Undergraduate Transcript

Statement of Academic Purpose


2 Writing Samples (1 Philosophy, 1 Linguistics)

3 letters of evaluation / recommendation

With a graduate school cover letter like that, you can be sure you’ll be getting an interview. It captivates the reader with an account of the student going above and beyond— 

Which is what graduate education is about.

It shows a clear path and intention to contribute to the body of knowledge in their field, as well as listing all the necessary parameters concisely.

Let’s get started on your grad school cover letter.

2. Write a Top Of The Class Graduate School Cover Letter

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

1. Use a Professional Cover Letter Format 

It would be comforting to assume that every cover letter for grad school is read meticulously, the advantages of each candidate being mapped on a huge leaderboard through standardised weighting.

But—sometimes people just don’t like the look of you. Or your grad school cover letter.

The way your grad school cover letter looks might not secure extra points for being correct, but it can definitely get your application binned if it’s wrong. If you can’t get your graduate school cover letter right, do you demonstrate the attention-to-detail and thoroughness required for further studies?

This is how not to lose points on your cover letter format:

  • ‘Align Left’ the text, and don’t use justification. 
  • Set even, margins on all sides, 1-inch at a minimum.
  • Match your CV font—go for the classic. Garamond is probably bordering in wild in the context of a grad school cover letter.
  • Use 1.15 line spacing. Leave a line between each section, and between paragraphs.
  • 1-page is always enough for a cover letter.

Make sure you check these steps again at the end—sometimes formatting can get messed up mid-way, especially when copy and pasting. 

Let’s run down what to include in your cover letter for graduate school.

2. Address Your Grad School Cover Letter

Addressing a cover letter for graduate school is not vastly different from addressing one for jobs. Make sure to include your physical address, but also email and phone number. If there is anything missing from your application, you want them to be able to reach you. 

Underneath, write down the date like any other letter, and below, the details of the person that will be dealing with your admission. 

Check against our template:

Graduate School Cover Letter Header 

[ Your Full Name]

[ Physical Address ]

[ Phone Number ]

[ Email Address ]

[ Date ]

[ Graduate Program Director / Administrator ]

[ Academic Department ]

[ University Name ]

[ Address ]

[ City and Zip Code ]

Expert Hint: Take extra time and care when applying to fully-funded programs, the acceptance rates for those drop into low single digits.

3. Identify The Program You’re Applying To and Introduce Yourself

Couldn’t be anything easier to do on a grad school cover letter than addressing it, right? Once again, we are in territory where you will not be winning points, but you may get your application binned.

These aren’t general undergraduate admissions, graduate programs usually have a specific person in charge dealing with the applications, and it doesn’t hurt to look it up. The name of the program administrator should be right there on the course description page on your university’s website. If you wade through the departmental pages and still can’t find it, just call them up. It’s no secret.

Once you’ve done the research, address the program administrator by their first name.

Start your cover letter by clearly identifying the graduate program you are hoping to join, and give them a reason to keep reading—your biggest academic achievement or a specific relation to the course you’re applying to.

Here’s a graduate school cover letter sample—you can just replace the [blanks] with your information. 

Graduate School Cover Letter Example: Introduction

Dear [Proper Academic Title] [Surname]:

I am pleased to submit my application to the [Program Name] program at [Grad School Name]. Given my previous academic background, a [Your Degree Name] from [University Name] [GPA], the graduate program at [Grad School Name] is the natural progression in working towards my goal of [your goal], due to its [graduate program focus/specific modules/other reason].

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4. Show That You’re The Best Candidate

They have the what, let’s give them the why. Graduate programs can be very specific, narrowed versions of a broader discipline—if this is the case, this is your easiest path to proving your adequacy for the program. 

Focus on parts of your existing education that match this focus and what achievements or skills you have acquired that will let you excel in this graduate program. List any extracurricular experience related to your graduate program—jobs, work experience, placements, internships.

Sample Cover Letter For Graduate School: Middle Paragraph

As a graduate of [Degree Name] at [University Name], I was fortunate enough to [list any achievements/notable projects/unique skills/things you can quantify]. My [list background experience/specific modules/extracurricular work] make me the ideal fit for the [Graduate Program Name] program, due to [the link between your background and the focus of the graduate program].

Expert Hint: Most graduate programs will require you to take a GRE—the Graduate Record Examination. Machine learning solutions exist that craft a tailor-made program to your weaknesses, and help you fix them to raise your score, and your chances.

5. Close the Grad School Cover Letter With the Formalities

All done. Just some formal pleasantries and a safeguard in case you missed something.

Feel free to just copy this paragraph:

Graduate School Cover Letter Sample: The Closing

Please find the list of attachments and application documents below. It is compliant with the list required on your website, but if there is anything else you require, or you have any questions, please let me know. 

6. Sign Off & List Attachments

When ending your cover letter for graduate school, mention your full name again and add a list of attachments. 

Here is how we close sample cover letters for graduate school: 

Graduate School Cover Letter Sample: Sign Off

Best Regards,

[Your Handwritten Signature]

[Your Full Name]


Graduate Admission Application

Undergraduate Transcripts

Statement of Academic Purpose

Standardised Test Scores


[X] Writing Samples (1 Philosophy, 1 Linguistics)

[X] letters of evaluation / recommendation / reference

The handwritten signature is a nice touch if you have the space for it. Drop 3 lines of space to make it stand out.

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Nail it all with a splash of colour, choose a clean font, highlight your skills in just a few clicks. You’re the perfect candidate and we’ll prove it. Just pick one of 18 CV templates and get started now.

If you’re writing a cover letter for graduate school, you’re most likely going to need a CV. See:

Key Points

When writing your cover letter for graduate school applications, make sure to:

  • Use the correct formatting: elegant font, margins, spacing, a clear header with all the information.
  • State the graduate program you’re applying to, your previous education background, and the reason for you applying.
  • Show that you are suitable for the graduate program by explaining your interest, showing the links and path of progression from your previous studies, underlining it all with your achievements.
  • Copy our grad school cover letter closing.
  • Sign off formally, and make a list of attachments below.

Do you have any more questions about writing a cover letter for graduate school? Did you find our grad school cover letter examples helpful? Leave us a comment, I’ll be more than happy to hear from you!

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Dave Rygielski
Written byDave Rygielski

Dave is a career expert delivering a wide range of well-researched advice regarding the job hunting and application process. At ResumeLab, his data-driven resume and cover letter guides help readers capitalize on their potential.

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