What's the difference between a cover letter, a motivation letter, and a personal statement? Depending on the situation and the request, you might find that you need one or any of these letters. While they seem similar on the surface, there are subtle differences that make the distinctions important.
Cover Letter: A cover letter is the most common type of letter you'll find for applications. It introduces you, your experiences, and your skills. A typical cover letter is the best way to introduce a resume, job application, or bid proposal. It always has the same rough structure: Tell the recipient who you are and what you want. Tell them why you like them and why they should like you. Briefly touch on, contextualize, or expand some of the qualities found in your resume. You're selling your qualifications and your image, and establishing your voice in a way that they will (ideally) remember.
Motivation Letter: A motivation letter is a lot like a cover letter, and can be used as a cover letter in most scenarios. The subtle difference with a motivation letter is that it's more about you explaining why you're motivated to do something and what's driving you to do it. A motivation letter is mostly used to get into a university, receive a scholarship, be approved for a mortgage loan, or apply for a volunteer position. It's less about your previous experience or qualifications and more about what you're looking for and why. Passion and dedication factor heavily in a motivation letter.
Personal Statement: A personal statement is not about selling your image; it's about telling your story. A personal statement is a place for you to talk about your experiences, but not just as they relate to the job/scholarship/school to which you're applying. You can talk about the most important people or events in your life, how they changed your perspective, and how they motivate you. You can discuss your goals and hopes and plans for the future. You can outline what makes you unique. Personal statements are almost always used for graduate programs, and are usually requested alongside a traditional cover letter.
No matter what seems best to you, always remember to format your letter to fit your recipient's prompt or request as closely as possible.
Index of Cover Letter Examples