I'm applying for a research fellowship at a European University, and one of the requirements is an application letter that outlines which project proposals (created by professors at the university) I'd be the most interested in. Is anyone familiar with this process? What is the format of this kind of letter?

  • 1
    Are you asking about the difference between cover letters for US applications vs European applications? Or do you want to know how to explain you interest for and fit with a particular project and/or supervisor? At least the latter doesn't seem to be Euro-specific.
    – henning
    Apr 10, 2017 at 6:33
  • I'm just not sure if it's a cover letter, statement of purpose, or what really. All it says is: "Application letter, clearly stating which projects (1 – 3) you are applying for". The problem is that I'm not sure if I should include statements about why I am applying for the program, why i'd be a good candidate, etc.
    – TLFVJR
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:10
  • 1
    Without being able to read their minds, I would guess a cover letter and a statement of purpose are the same, save for the fact that European cover letters tend to be as short as 1 page. In which country are you applying?
    – henning
    Apr 11, 2017 at 6:00
  • 1
    Where in Europe? There are big differences between e.g. the UK, France, Italy, Germany. Good advise for one country does not work for the other. (For example, in Italy candidates usually include a photo in the cover letter, in the UK you would never do that, in Germany I see it in about 50% of the time. Also what you write and how bold you write differs quite a bit between countries.) Aug 21, 2018 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


Speaking as someone who has chaired selection committees, I would say that it is expected that you make a succinct argument for choosing you; if it were just a choice of projects then a check box would have sufficed. Also, the professors will usually be asked for an opinion and a ranking of candidates, so contact professors whose projects interest you.

In France this would be a lettre de motiviation, a kind of cover letter where you present your arguments for being the right person to hire. Typically one page or a page and a half. Generally you would want at least to explain

  • What you have done before: education and experience relevant to the position
  • What your ambitions are, scientifically of course and personally if appropriate
  • Why the institution and project would be great places to realize those ambitions
  • What you hope to contribute to the institution and project

For example, as a graduate of the University of Souther North Dakota's department of bike shedding, you have been trained to design bike sheds, and your time as a summer intern in Unité Velocipède of the Clermont Ferrand police department gave you insight into the role of bike shed ergonomics for special needs users. Your ambition is introduce bike shedding thinking at all levels of the outdoor shelter design process, and feel that your application to the prestigious Slough Institute of Canine Environmental Protection provides a unique opportunity to place your experience and abilities at the service of innovative projects. In particular you would be thrilled to contribute your expertise in chromatic selection to the development of height-appropriate shelters for injured Great Danes using wheeled carts.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .