Practical Steps On How To Write Winning Motivation Letter For Your Scholarship Application With Examples

practical steps to write scholarship motivation letter


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Writing a winning scholarship motivation letter is not as complicated as you think. Aside from your long days of mental preparation for the scholarship application, this is an additional task that every scholar will have to do at a point in their educational journey. Most scholars spend fortunes getting this done via third parties, and they eventually got rejected in their scholarship applications. They have forgotten that as an individual, we all have unique stories and nobody can tell your story better than you. Therefore, you should learn how to communicate your own story to any type of audience in writing through the motivation letter for your scholarship application or for master and PhD university admission application. Whether you want to write the best motivation letter for undergraduate scholarship applications, write a good motivation letter for master scholarship programs or write a winning motivation letter for PhD scholarship programs, the route to follow still remains the same with little alterations though.

This article is written to demystify the myth on how to write writing motivational letters for their scholarship applications using practical steps explained here and with examples to drive home the points. At the end of the article, you will have access to some templates to further aid your understanding of the process.

Don’t forget to share this article with your networks if you find it useful. So shall we begin?


What is motivation letter for scholarship application?

A scholarship motivation letter is a short description of your experience and expertise that make you an exact fit for the scholarship position you are competing for. In other words, a letter that showcases those attributes that stands you out from other participants in line with the objective of the contending position.

As a student seeking to further his/her study, it will be required of you to write a motivation letter as part of the application documents for either your bachelor, masters or PhD admission process. Meanwhile, if you are a scholarship applicant it is one of the core requirements with which your application for the scholarship will be judged. You therefore see how hefty a motivation letter is in any application. Therefore, a document of this importance requires extra effort to write. Though writing a scholarship motivation letter or any other motivation letter requires special skills or steps, but is not for specially talented people. It is a skill that can be learned and reciprocated. That is exactly what I will be showing you in this article on how to write outstanding motivation letter for your scholarship applications.


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What is the objective of a scholarship motivation letter?

In the previous section, I was able to let you understand what a motivation letter is and a taste of its essence. Hope that sinks? If not, kindly take a look again.

So now, you are wondering what is the need for this hefty document in your application. The major reason for a motivation letter in either your scholarship or admission application is to get the program coordinator to know you and your suitability for the program. They want to know your story. They want to know the challenges you have passed through, and how you were able to turn those challenges into advantages. Despite the challenges, they want to know how you were able to contribute to humanity. They want to know why you didn’t give up in the face of those challenges. What encourages you to keep going. Based on where you are coming from, they want to know the future you have seen for yourself, the skills you have developed in the process and how those skills align with the future you have seen for yourself? Ultimately, when you get to this future how will you give back to humanity or your community. In summary, what your motivation letter should be designed to achieve is to tell your unique story in its simplest and most relatable form. And how this story is a springboard into your career or future.

You can see from above that your motivation letter is indeed personal. That is why in some cases or in some applications, it is referred to as a personal statement. In my next article, I will write to simplify the confusion on the personal statement and motivation letter. But for now, let us keep the focus going.


Where do I need a motivation letter?

A letter of motivation or motivation letter can be required for many purposes. But for the sake of this article, we are focusing on the scholarship motivation letter. Therefore, a motivation letter can be needed for any of the following:

  • Motivation letter for Bachelor scholarship or motivation letter for undergraduate admission
  • Motivation letter for masters admission or motivation letter for masters scholarship
  • Motivation letter for PhD scholarship or motivation letter for PhD admission
  • Motivation letter for internship or motivation letter for a volunteering position

Whatever program you want to develop a motivation letter for, your detailed understanding of what is required and how to structure your thoughts will enable you to joggle between the above lists and navigate your way through.

So, let us now go into the next section on how you write a winning motivation letter for either your scholarship application or university admission.


How to write an outstanding motivation letter for scholarship application

Nobody knows your story like you. Therefore, the best person to tell your story is you. No one else. So in this section, I will meticulously walk you through the step-by-step strategies involved to communicate your unique story through a compelling motivation letter. Then I will show you some templates to ease your understanding. Shall we begin?

Before you can write a good or winning motivation letter for your scholarship application, you first need to identify the need or objective of the program organizer. Every scholarship program out there has different objectives to achieve. As an applicant, it is therefore important you discover the need of the organizer because this will be the road map with which you will navigate throughout your writing.

Let me make it easier for you to understand.

Imagine you need a favour from one rich man and you have been made to realize that many other people too need the same favour. However, the rich man has a limited number of people he can offer the favour. So what will you do to increase your chance of getting the favour?

If I am in your shoe, I will find a need or pain point of the rich man. Design a solution around it and make it attractive for the rich man. I know you will also be like me in this case, right?

So now, let us get back into the perspective. The scholarship organizers are like the rich man. And they have some needs they want to be met with the scholarship program. Also, they have limited space which is smaller than the total number of applicants. This therefore makes it very competitive and only those who could understand the pain point and build their story around it eventually emerge as the winner in most cases.

So as an applicant, to increase your chance of getting the scholarship you need to identify these pain points (I call them the scholarship objectives) and focus the beam of your experience, expertise and personal attributes on it.

Having stated that, let us proceed to the next stage.

Contents or elements of a winning motivation letter for scholarship application

There is no rule of thumb as to what to be included in your motivation letter. But whatever you put, please make sure it is the truth. Nothing but the truth. If you lie, it will show and it will terribly hinder your chance in the current application which might also affect future application rounds.

So here we go:

  1. Where are you coming from? (your growing up in the context of your education and the career path you have decided for yourself)
  2. What led you to your choice of this degree?
  3. What made you consider this program for your graduate degree (for MSc. & PhD applicants)
  4. How have you demonstrated development in your journey in life and what skills have you mastered?
  5. What research will you be doing in your graduate degree
  6. What makes the country of study suitable for research in (5) above and your study destination
  7. What exact knowledge do you want to gain in country/program of choice above
  8. How will the knowledge gained in (7) above affect your home country and your developmental plan after study (post-study plan)?

Having highlighted the elements, how do you transform these elements into an interesting piece? That’s what we are doing next. However, before we go into the next section you will have to provide answers to the above-listed questions to make your work seamless.

I am assuming you have your answers at hand, so let us make them into a whole interesting piece.


Template of motivation letter for scholarship application 1

In my opinion, a motivational letter should not be more than three to four paragraphs with each paragraph averaging of 250-300 words count. Then, what should be in each paragraph? That is what I am about to show you.

Your first paragraph should provide answers to elements 1 and 2.

Your first paragraph can look like this:

Growing up in a middle-class family, I used to believe that eating canned and processed food was a symbol of affluence and class. This was a lifestyle that was seriously admired by many in my neighborhood in those days, even some of my early childhood friends envy my family for this lifestyle. Little did we know then that this way of life is daily endangering our health. However, we became aware of the danger of heavy consumption of processed food when my mother was diagnosed of an incurable organ disease that made her live in and out of hospital for the rest of her life. Her medical examination revealed some metallic substance in her blood with a likely source of contamination from food. This health challenge therefore changed our diet and our lifestyle eventually. As a toddler, I was curious on why my favorite food becomes poisonous to my health. Looking back however, I can trace my choice of human nutrition in my first degree to this experience. As a result of this first-hand childhood experience with food and diseases, I devoted my undergraduate research thesis on investigating xzy content in five fast-food restaurants in two different urban communities. The result has shown the high level of danger fast food customers are exposing themselves to.  

The sample above gives you a clearer picture of how you express your thoughts. This is not final, you can still make yours better than this. If you have some extracurricular engagements while on campus, this first paragraph is a good place to state it and don’t forget to link it to how it has helped you to become a better graduate. Most students begin this by stating how helpless or poor they are. You should understand that, no reviewer will score your motivation letter high on the note of how poor or disadvantaged you are. Rather, on the potential you carry and how you have maximized it despite your challenges.

Now, let us see what the second paragraph should look like.

Your second paragraph should be a continuation of your first paragraph. Stating what now led you into considering an advance or another degree or what is pushing you into a totally new degree of study. How have you contributed to the development and the skills developed in the process. So, your second paragraph should answer elements 3, 4 and 5.

Example of motivation letter for scholarship application II

Still considering the focus from our first example, let us see how the second paragraph should be:

Upon completion of my first degree, I was privileged to get a job/volunteering position at a food processing and packaging company where I worked/working at the quality assurance department as an officer/intern. In this role, I learned how to operate xyz machines/devices, carry out different analyses on abcd and related some knowledge identified during my undergraduate thesis work to the world of work. During this period, I got the opportunity to get better insights into why some of the packaged food products are too good for health as a result of synthetic preservatives to extend the shelf life. Since the goal of every business is to make profit, therefore it is a necessary evil for most of the food processing companies. While at this company as a staff/intern, I was also involved in community-engaged with rty club where we periodically go on outreach those in hospitals to give support. My experience during one of the outings however gave me a reason to reconsider the harmful effects of canned food in our society. According to recent statistics, it was stated that 3 million people died of food-related diseases annually in my country. I am therefore pushed into finding natural food preserve as an alternative to the synthetic ones currently adopted by most industries.  Therefore, I am interested in seeking an advanced degree in nutrition. During my studies, my area of research will focus on finding natural preservatives that will friendly for human health.


Meanwhile, if you are changing your study field this second paragraph is the best point to begin the reflection. You do this by first stating what made you have this decision and the professional experience you have gathered in this new field. For instance, someone moving from Food Science into International Relations.

Sample motivation letter for scholarship application III

Next is the third paragraph that answers elements 6, 7 and 8. It is expected of you to let the scholarship or admission application reviewer know why you have chosen the particular school and the country of your study and your research. What are the exact thing you want to gain from the program and how will you use the knowledge gained for your community or country’s development. Let us continue from our subject focus.

My choice of Germany as a study destination was as result of good educational system blended with industrial exposure. And my choice of Amsterdam Clinical College was the product of my findings where I discovered that the school has some faculty members in the nutrition department of global reputations. Most important for me is Prof. Jude Edith who has numerous works on natural additives for food preservatives and I will be willing to be his research student. During my study program, I will like to gain practical knowledge on xzy (use this space to list the knowledge and skills you desire). The goal for the above knowledge is to reduce the number of food-related diseases arising from synthetic food preservatives in my home country. Upon completion of my study program, I hope to make available to the public the new alternatives and also work with processing companies to get xyz done.

Then, you can conclude your letter in a one-sentence paragraph.

How to conclude motivation letter for scholarship application

One of my lecturers during my undergraduate days used to say, “to end any presentation you tell your audience what you have told them”. So in this context of ours, you remind your readers of those qualities that stand you out in one sentence. And you follow up this statement with a sense of urgency.


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Helpful tips on how to write winning scholarship motivation letter

Having walked you through these practical steps, I find it important to give you these essential tips for writing an outstanding motivation letter or statement of purpose. These tips are as important as the steps we have been discussing.

  • Start preparation for your motivation letter early. If you start it towards the last day, you might not have enough mental capacity to recollect all your useful experiences that may ace your application. I recommend you read how to position for a scholarship
  • First, research and ensure you understand the objectives of the scholarship before you begin writing your motivation letter. This is very important because it will help you to know which experience and skills to bring on board. As you know, you cannot write all your life experiences in one single motivational letter.
  • Make a draft of all the relevant experience and skills to check their compatibility with the scholarship program objectives.
  • Select the relevant and weighty ones to improve your chances of getting a YES.
  • Begin to put down your story in your own way following the guide above.
  • Write, read and correct till you are satisfied. Rinse and repeat this process till you confident that you are good enough.
  • Check your grammar, your tenses and your choice of words. Ensure your choice of words are easily understandable by your reader. Also, ensure you put the source for any statistics you quote.
  • Get a friend or a senior colleague to help you review your motivation letter. I will be willing to help you review your motivation letter, you can shoot me a mail at But before you reach out to me, kindly ensure that your motivation letter or statement of purpose is well structured and well formatted.


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