Cover Letter Tips for College Students

Student writing on laptop
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When you're applying for jobs and internships, including a​ well-written cover letter with your application is important. Writing a compelling cover letter is a critical component of an effective job search for college students. A well thought out cover letter will show employers that you are a motivated candidate and place a high value on their employment opportunity.

A quality letter will convey to employers both why you are interested in the job or internship, and how your background will enable you to excel in the position.

Finally, your cover letter serves as a writing sample and will demonstrate to employers that you can communicate logically and effectively. Here are some tips to help you write the best possible cover letters.

Top 10 Cover Letter Tips for College Students

1. Carefully research your target job prior to starting to write your letter. Assess the skills, knowledge, education, experience and personal qualities required for success. Some of this will be evident from the job advertisement that the employer has provided. Supplement this information by conducting informational interviews with alumni in the field. Ask them what it takes to excel in that role. Consult your college's career office for suggestions about other resources of information about the field.

2. Make a list of the assets in your background which corresponds most closely to the requirements for the job. Your assets can be skills, coursework, knowledge, experiences, personal qualities, honors, awards, motivations or interests. Aim to compile a list of 7 - 10 reasons why the employer should hire you for that job or internship.

3. For each asset put together a phrase referencing how you have tapped that strength to succeed in a role, project, job or activity. For example, "My persuasive skills enabled me to expand membership in the sorority by 25%." In some cases, more than one asset can be strung together with a particular statement of proof like "Strong writing, research, and interviewing skills contributed to my success as a reporter for the school newspaper." Weaving together these phrases will form the core of your letter.

4. In your first paragraph make sure you reference the specific position or category of jobs for which you would like consideration. If anyone known to the employer (like an alum who works there!) has referred you to the opportunity, make sure you mention their name towards the beginning of your letter. A tone of enthusiasm and a strong statement of interest should be reflected in your first paragraph. Some candidates will use a brief thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph to demonstrate their interest and summarize their fit.

For example, "My fascination with numbers combined with my strong accounting skills and mathematics minor should help me to make a solid contribution in this role."

5. Use short paragraphs so that employers can quickly scan your document without being overwhelmed by large blocks of text. Try to limit paragraphs to seven or fewer lines of text.

6. Use action or skills verbs like created, increased, calculated, analyzed, initiated, and reorganized to portray your background in a dynamic way. Here are skills listed by college major to include.

7. Employers of college graduates are often looking for future leaders for their organization. Include statements in your letter that showcase any successful leadership role you have played with student organizations, teams or academic groups.

8. Showcase any recognition you have received by former employers, coaches or faculty to highlight key assets. For example "My supervisor designated me as shift leader due to my ability to orient and motivate fellow staff members."

9. If you are searching for a position distant from your campus or home area, make it seem easy for an employer to interview you by mentioning when you might be in their area. For example, "I will be visiting your area during my upcoming spring break, might we meet for an interview at that time?"

10. Use a strong closing to reaffirm your high level of interest and belief that the position is an excellent match. For positions outside of the campus recruiting program, consider including a statement that you will contact them to follow up on your letter and explore the possibility of arranging an interview.

Following these suggestions and composing a strong cover letter will show employers that you are serious about the job at hand and willing to work hard to achieve your goals.

Review a Sample Letter

Your Name
Your Address
City, State Zip
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address

Date

Recipient Name
Recipient Title
Recipient Company
Recipient’s Company’s Address
City, State Zip

Dear Mr./Mrs. Lastname (if known or use “Dear Hiring Manager”),

I am writing to apply for the position of entry-level graphic designer as posted on the careers page of the Game Lab website. It looks like an amazing opportunity, and I'm excited to see how well my skills match the qualifications in the job description. In two weeks, I will be graduating from Western State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in graphic design, and I’m ready to begin my career as soon as possible.

I believe I would be an excellent fit for the designer position because of my education and collaborative nature. While at WSU, I excelled at both 2D and 3D animation. I am also experienced with all Adobe programs, Maya, and more. In addition, during my junior and senior years, I was president of the Visual Arts Club, and I enjoy collaborating with other artists and digital experts to create unique projects.

If you have any questions or wish to know more about my qualifications or view my portfolio, please do not hesitate to contact me. My cell phone number is 555-555-5555, and my email is myname@myemail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you about this exciting position.

Sincerely,

Your signature (hard copy letter)

Your Typed Name

Note: When you're sending an email cover letter, list your contact information under your typed name rather than at the top of the message.