How individualised should each PhD covering letter be?


I started a thread asking this question but no replies :( to be fair I worded it in a pretty boring way

Anyways Im wondering, do most cover letters people write tend to follow a similar template, are they practically identical with a little change for each project? Or are they all just totally unique for each project for most people?

Is there a right or wrong way?

Thanks very much! Any help appreciated!


======= Date Modified 20 Mar 2011 13:21:57 =======
I get the impression that you are writing quite a few cover letters at the moment so it can be tiresome individualising them for the different institutions. Nevertheless I think this is what you have to do, particularly if the process is very competitive. Some of the info relating to yourself no doubt you could copy and paste. However I think when you are referring that 'why' you want to study at that particular place you need to individualise it. Drop a few names - for instance you could refer to being familiar with the work of one or two current staff members, thus why you would complement what's there.

Finally, I would proof to an inch of the cover letter's life that you are referring to the correct institution. Although you are applying to a few, each institution is obviously only interested in how you might fit in with them. Therefore any suggestion in your cover letter that it is a generic cover letter, or worse still, one you used elsewhere will be not be considered positively.

Good luck (up)



I agree totally with what Ady has suggested. It's important to say what you can bring to the research, so it would be good to mention any techniques/skills that you have used, that might be relevant to each individual PhD. There will be elements that you can copy and paste, but yes, try and individualise as much as you can in the time that you have.

Good luck


I agree with what the others say also, you can copy some of the bits but be very careful you don't copy something that isn't relevant. I stick to the same structure for the cover letter, i.e. the first paragraph introducing yourself, saying where you saw the project advertised (if it is an advertised position you're going for) and why you would be good for the project.
The second paragraph talk about the university/institution and the project, why you want to work there etc. A third paragraph bigging yourself up basically, why you'd be amazing for the project. Then a brief summary at the end.
Good luck with your applications!


Thanks very much guys

Looks like more hard work for me lol

How long would you say a cover letter should be btw? i'm invisaging something like 750 words?


For a regular job the advice is normally no more than one page. For academia (so I have been told) is that it should be between one and two pages - longer than one but def no longer than two. Profs. et al may need longer but two pages should be enough for our needs.