As part of your application for a Canadian university or college, you might be asked to submit a letter of intent. Also referred to as a ‘statement of interest’ or ‘personal statement’, your letter of intent is your chance to demonstrate that you’re a serious candidate and that your education, extracurricular activities and work experience have prepared you to be successful in the program that interests you. Sound like the hardest thing ever? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
Worth knowing: Before you begin planning your letter of intent, it's worth noting that many universities in Canada admit students based on academic performance alone and some programs have specific criteria for supplemental information (which includes letters of intent), so it's definitely worth researching the admission requirements for your chosen program before you begin planning.
Once you're sure a letter of intent is required, here's what to do:
1. Start off by answering these questions. Your answers don’t have to sound great or even be in full sentences at this point. The most important thing is that you put pen to paper and cover everything. Mind maps and bullet points are a great way to start.
- What do you want to study and why?
This section might be a little tricky as you’ll often be applying to a faculty, rather than to study a particular subject. If you want to specialize in Chemistry, for instance, you’ll probably apply to a Faculty of Science.
Your answer to this question, therefore, will very much depend on how narrow your interests are. Do you want to explore your options at uni by studying a range of electives before you commit to a certain major? That’s absolutely fine - simply explain what it is about your chosen discipline as a whole that makes you want to explore it further. Do you already know exactly which subject you want to major in and why? That’s equally fine, although you may want to mention your interest in finding out how that subject links with others in its field. If you have a good idea of what you hope to do following graduation, discuss how this program will help you to realize your ultimate career/research goal.
- Why you want to apply to this university/college?
What drew you to this university in the first place? Its impressive reputation? Positive student feedback? Was it the campus itself that wowed you? It’s ok to mention the appeal of studying in Canada briefly, but don’t dwell on this, as there are many universities and colleges in Canada to choose from! Think carefully about what makes this particular institution unique in its appeal to you and show you’ve done your research.
- Why do you want to apply to this faculty?
Are there specific faculty members whose research interests match your own? Does the faculty have some super awesome equipment that you can’t wait to get your hands on? Have they produced outstanding research recently? Most faculties have their own websites, so it should be fairly easy to get your hands on some useful info.
- What makes you qualified for this program?
This is your chance to really shine, so don’t hold back! If you’ve been using Unifrog’s Activities and Competencies tools diligently, this is when all that hard work will really pay off - huzzah!
What qualifications and experience do you have that are related to this program? How exactly have these prepared you to be successful? Mention specific skills/techniques that you’ve picked up and explain how they’ll help you to complete your program successfully.
Think broadly here - you may presume that all that time playing trumpet in your school’s band has precious little to do with Aerospace Engineering, but perhaps that experience taught you how to work well with others, manage your time effectively and overcome challenges, all of which would be relevant!
2. Once you have your basic answers down, it’s time to flesh them out by adding details.
What’s the difference between these two extracts?
I volunteer with the Summer Reading Challenge, where I host events and help children to read.
I volunteer with the Summer Reading Challenge, which combats the regression of reading levels in school age children over the holidays. As well as encouraging children to read and discuss books, I worked as part of a team that conceptualised and hosted events in Maida Vale Library. I proposed ideas for events and led the team to deliver them.
The details given in the second extract tell the admissions tutor exactly what this student did during their experience, making it far more compelling, convincing and interesting to read. In other words, details are pretty important, particularly for Section 3.
After you’ve added details to your strongest points, finish each one off by linking it back to the program you’re applying to:
The experience has helped me gain confidence in putting forward ideas and working with people of all ages, skills which I feel will enable me to lead a classroom effectively.
3. Give it a strong first line.
Avoid opening with grandiose, sweeping statements such as, ‘Ever since being able to walk, I’ve dreamed of becoming a Project Manager.’ Aside from being very unlikely, it’s also too vague an unlikely to make you stand out. Here are a few examples of great opening lines:
I only understood how important money was when I made my own money three years ago by buying sweets cheap and selling them at higher prices. (Accounting)
I was first taught how a plug, its internals and its socket work together when I was 10 by my father who is an electrical engineer. (Aerospace Engineering)
Finding Nemo: as well as being one of the most iconic Disney Pixar films since its release, it is also the first film I ever saw at the cinema (Film)
These opening lines all have two things in common:
- They include a personal detail that is genuinely interesting
- They will all lead easily onto the first section of the reference, which should outline what the student wants to study and why.
4. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
You’ve done the hard part; now, it’s time to edit, tweak, delete, rewrite, and edit again. Once you’re happy with the final copy, send it to a bunch of friends or relatives and get them to proofread it - you’d be surprised at how easy it is to miss typos. Make sure your spelling, punctuation and grammar are up to scratch and subject each sentence to this test - “Does this explain why I’m the right candidate for this program?” If not, lose it!