Learning how to write a cover letter as a college student is probably not at the top of your to do list. I get it—you probably think that a cover letter is only necessary for after graduation when you begin your job search. Not true. A cover letter is needed even if you are applying for an internship, and, if you are a senior, you shouldn’t be waiting until after graduation to start your job search.
I’ve got some DIY tips to guide you through the cover letter process.
The internship cover letter
When you are applying for an internship, your goal is to gain some experience to help you when you eventually start looking for your “real job.” Logic dictates then that you aren’t going to have a whole lot of experience to tout in your internship cover letter. I have an outline you should follow for how to write your own DIY cover letter:
- Introduce yourself
- State what position you are applying for
- Mention anything interesting you learned about the company during your research
- Talk about what you want to do with your eventual career
- Add details about how this opportunity will help you achieve your future work goals
- List any extracurricular activities or volunteer work that apply to the internship
- Provide your contact information
- Restate your interest in working and learning via an internship at the company
How to write a regular cover letter
If graduation is in sight, and you are moving beyond applying for internships by starting to prepare job applications, here’s more about what you need to know to write the best possible cover letter.
The main goal of your cover letter is to show how you could be an asset to the company. Even if you don’t have “work” experience, you can demonstrate this through the volunteer work you did as a college student, as well as your academic achievements, any participation in clubs or other activities and internships. Thebalance.com offers multiple cover letter samples that you can use to guide you in this process. I know that I find having an example to follow has helped me when it comes to how to write a cover letter. Thebalance.com also suggested college students, “Include details that are relevant to the position you want (use the job description as your guide to the qualities the employer seeks).”
What to avoid in your cover letter
Sometimes I have found that what you DON’T include in your cover letter can be just as important as what you do. For starters, while you want your cover letter to be easy to read and look good, try not to get too freaked out about how it looks. Elaborate fonts and fantastic design layouts won’t make up for something that is poorly written.
My next DIY cover letter tip is don’t get caught up in formalities. Yes, manners are important in a cover letter, but more important is a focus on tailoring your message for the job/internship you are applying for.
Finally, promoting yourself is important, but remember to keep a balance between shouting out every detail of your life and showing the employer what you can bring to the company. A good cover letter will balance information that shows a genuine interest in the company with relevant details as to why you would be a good fit. You don’t need to game the page margins so you can squeeze in another paragraph detailing your favorite things about your semester abroad.