Cover Letter Tips for College Students

Student writing on laptop
••• Roberto Westbrook / Getty Images

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.