This is a specialized version of a post I have about general application letter writing advice, aimed at intern applicants.
It may be impossible to describe a letter written by a highly-ranked internship applicant, but we will apply Justice Stewart’s test– I know it when I see it. Given the wide variability in internship evaluators, and the subjective nature of the process, can you actually write a good letter of intent? The answer is yes. Let’s do it.
Once evaluators have whittled down the list by tossing those applications which are clearly unacceptable, they will more carefully review the remainder. You want to be at the top of this list. While your entire application packet matters, the letter is fully under your control right now. It is one of the few ways you can connect with the evaluator and they can get an idea of who you are as an applicant. You have to make the most of that opportunity.
Your letter should achieve the following goals:
- Tell them why you want an internship.
- Demonstrate good communication skills.
- Demonstrate an understanding of what the internship entails.
- Illustrate why the program should choose you over another applicant.
- Create some memorable or interesting personal detail for the evaluator to remember.
- Avoid all of the mistakes previously described here at The Vetducator
Tell them why you want an internship.
If I have to read another letter that starts, “I want to pursue an internship because I want to continue my education” I will punch my computer. OF COURSE YOU WANT TO CONTINUE YOUR EDUCATION, THAT’S WHY YOU’RE APPLYING FOR AN INTERNSHIP! As a general rule, don’t waste space in your letter writing anything that is self-evident. I understand why you do it- you need to open with SOMETHING, and this describes your motivation in the most simple terms possible. Instead, open with the position to which you are applying and be specific about what you are looking for and what you can offer.
Demonstrate good communication skills.
In addition to avoiding grammar and spelling mistakes, you want to be articulate. I will devote an entire blog post to this topic because it is expansive. In general, be sincere, use simple (but not simplistic) language, use punchy sentences, use appropriate openers and closers, present your thoughts in an organized way, use paragraphs, create narratives, and use good punctuation. You may also demonstrate good communication skills by relating a story of a challenging communication you had with a client, another student, clinician, etc. Everyone knows communication is essential to any job- show them you can do it well.
Demonstrate an understanding of what the internship entails.
Everyone knows you work a lot during an internship, but what is “a lot”? How do you know? Do you just see the interns at the hospital late at night, do you talk to them, do you have a family member or friend who did an internship? What else do interns do? You want to show the evaluators that you know what you are getting in to. They want to know if you have what it takes to be successful at this job.
Illustrate why the program should choose you over another applicant.
This is the real kicker, and consequently almost impossible to pin down. You need to draw from your experiences and who you are and showcase your best characteristics. Don’t just tell them what you did in school. They have your CV, they know WHAT you did. WHY did you do it, WHAT did you learn, HOW does it make you a better person and candidate?
Create some memorable or interesting personal detail for the evaluator to remember.
First, make sure your details are not too quirky- this turns off some evaluators. What you want is when they are reviewing the 40-60 shortlisted candidates and your file comes up, one or two of them will say, “Oh yeah, that?s the one who tried to do a research project during a summer but it didn’t work out, but they learned about how they handle challenges.” This is not essential, but if you are able to pull it off, it is a slight one up in your favor.
Please? For me?
At the end of the day, you have to express yourself, and no rules or formula can tell you how to do that. Have others review your letter- friends, classmates, mentors. When you get suggestions for changes, though, you don’t have to accept all of them. We can probably take 100 people and generate a “typical” good letter, but it won’t be YOUR letter, it will be a regression to the mean. Now get out there and write!