Writing a Cover Letter: A Detailed Guide for University Students (Template Included)
A lot goes into a job application, and if you’re still at university, the workings of the labor market may be unfamiliar to you. It can be intimidating to dive into a job search, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with the process. Of course, you know you need to submit a resume, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
Along with a resume or a CV (curriculum vitae), job applicants should also submit a cover letter that illustrates their relevant skills and qualifications and explains why they would be a perfect match for the job. In today’s job market, cover letters are often optional, but including one is always a good idea unless the vacancy posting explicitly instructs applicants not to send a cover letter.
For current university students or recent graduates, a strong cover letter is crucial because it guides an employer’s decision on which applications to review further. Without the experience that a veteran professional can boast, students or recent graduates will benefit considerably from this additional opportunity to pitch themselves and their competencies.
If you’re a university student looking to refine your cover letter, reach out to our cover letter writers and editors.
Standard cover letter blueprint for university students
[Mailing address (optional—not necessary for most modern jobs)]
[Name of employer]
[Employer’s contact details (address)]
[Subject: Application for (title of job)]
[Begin by introducing yourself and refer to the job you’re applying for. Segue into your educational background, providing the name of your school and specifying when you expect to graduate (if you’re currently studying). Explain why you’re applying for the job, and don’t say it’s because you need the money—focus on your passion for your field and this company and position.]
[Move on to your employment history (including student exchange programs, part-time summer jobs, and internships) and explain how your past experience would enable you to perform to a high standard. You can also mention volunteer work, club activities, hobbies, or anything else you can associate with valuable skills.]
[Now sell yourself. List your strong points and explain how these attributes will help you succeed in this position. Keep your descriptions succinct, but do back up your skills with real-world accomplishments wherever possible as this makes your claims credible.]
[Conclude your cover letter by reiterating your desire to work for this company. If you have a relevant portfolio or a personal website, mention it here or simply refer to your attached resume. Finish off by thanking the employer for their time and consideration and expressing a wish to hear back soon. Keep the tone polite, professional, and confident.]
Essential components of a cover letter
1. Background information
First, familiarize yourself with your prospective employer. Conduct research and read about the organization’s values as well as the kind of workers it is looking for. Not only will this help you tailor your resume and cover letter to this particular employer, but it will also allow you to determine whether the two of you are a good fit.
In addition, study carefully the job description—it contains essential keywords that you should include in your cover letter and resume (assuming you do have the specified attributes). Then, you can relate your professional and interpersonal skills to the job requirements and explain why you would be an asset to the team. Using keywords from the job description is also crucial for getting past the applicant tracking systems (ATSs) that most companies use nowadays—if you don’t include the right keywords, your application may be discarded before the hiring manager ever even sees it.
2. Contact details
A standard cover letter must feature your contact information at the top of the page, including details such as your full name, phone number, and email address. This will ensure the employer has a way of reaching you if they so choose. A mailing address is optional given the plethora of options for remote communication in the modern era. Make sure to also include the employer’s contact information at the top of your letter, right beneath your own, as well as a subject line.
Always follow any instructions provided. Most job advertisements will specify a method of submission, such as email, a third-party portal, or post. If you submit your application through the wrong channel, you can be guaranteed a rejection. Double-check that you have the right contact information. Paying attention to details tells an employer that you’re thorough and careful.
3. The pitch
The purpose of a cover letter is to convince a recruiter that you’re the best candidate for the job. Begin with an introduction explaining why you’re applying. What is it about the position and the organization that interests you? There’s no magic formula for a good pitch—tailor it to the job and the company, as well as your circumstances and personality. You want your passion to shine through and convince the hiring manager that you’d make a great addition to the team. You may mention how you discovered the job opening.
Being a university student or a recent graduate, you should emphasize the time you’ve spent in school. In two to three paragraphs, elaborate on how your field of study makes you an ideal candidate for the job. Mention any academic achievements you have and highlight the name of your school if it’s a highly prestigious institution. Basically, include any information about your academic background that might be attractive to this employer. If you’re still a student, let them know when you expect to graduate.
In case you have any employment history, mention it here and explain how your experience makes you better qualified for the job. You could also bring up internships, summer jobs, participation in a student exchange program, volunteer work, or even club or hobby activities—anything from which you can extract valuable skills and qualities to impress the hiring manager.
4. The conclusion
Remind the employer of other elements of your application by directing their attention to your resume and/or portfolio (if applicable). Finally, demonstrate your politeness and professional demeanor by thanking them for taking the time to review your application.
While your cover letter can be vital for landing the job you want, it’s ultimately your resume that’s the star of the show. If you’re struggling to produce a good one, get in touch with our academic resume experts.