headerheader

How to write a Letter of Motivation (LOM) for a German University: A Guide for International Students (2022/23)

You can rarely apply for a study program at a German University without submitting a Motivation Letter. Learn more about what to cover and how to structure an LOM!

Let us make a guess: if you are reading this article, that means that you have already found out that one of the key documents that you would need for applying to a German University is the Letter of Motivation (LOM). If you did not know that, now you know!

 

The purpose of this article is to provide clear answers to the most crucial questions about the LOM-writing process with regard to the German University context. We know that writing a letter of motivation for a German University is one of the most (if not the most) challenging application tasks for students. That is why we decided to make your life easier and put the answers to the central questions in one place.

Check out our Video Course (64 min.) on "How to write a Letter of Motivation"

22 videos plus checklist and template

Go to the video course

The basics that you need to know about LOMs for Germany

What is a Letter of Motivation for German Universities?

Generally speaking, a Letter of Motivation (LOM) is a (mandatory) application document requested by most of the German universities, where you need to demonstrate your motivation to get into the given study program and explain why you are an excellent fit/candidate. To put it differently, it is through the LOM that you can "advertise" yourself in the best possible ways (i.e. showing your strengths, your determination, your qualifications and so on) and make a formal request for placement. The same is true for the rationale behind the LOM when it comes to German Universities.

Letter of Motivation vs SOP vs Motivation Letter vs Personal Statement - What are the differences?

Do not be confused or surprised if while surfing through the different study programs listed in our StudyFinder you find out that some of them do not mention "Letter of Motivation", but instead use terms like "Statement of Purpose (SOP)", "Personal Statement" or "Cover Letter". Usually, German Universities use these terms interchangeably - so do not worry about that! Depending on the cultural and linguistic background of the people that administer the given study program, they will use one of the following expressions for what is called in German “Motivationsschreiben''.

Table 1: Different wordings used for “Letter of Motivation” (LOM)

Term

Typical Context/Scope

Explanation

Letter of Motivation (LOM)

University Application

Dominant English-language term in the German-speaking countries; widely used also in American English 

Motivation Letter

University Application

The same as LOM but in a different word order

Statement of Purpose (SOP)

University Application

Same meaning, widely used in British English

Personal Statement

University Application

Less frequent than LOM or SOP

Cover Letter

Job Application

Predominantly used for the job market

Do German Universities Require Motivation Letters?

Yes, German Universities do generally require Letters of Motivation for applications! According to our research, around 90% of Bachelor's and Master's programs in Germany require you to submit a Letter of Motivation in order to be considered as a candidate. This includes both English-taught and German-taught study programs. And again, do not forget various wordings that you might come across! Let's have a look at some examples.

How important is the Letter of Motivation?

You might be wondering now how vital this document might be for your application, and you are on the right track if you are asking this question! It might be surprising, but overall the LOM is the second-most important application document after the average grade (Grade Point Average, or GPA). Interestingly, different study programs usually assign the LOM 10%-40% weight of your total applicant score during the selection process. For instance:

 

 

  • The (German-taught) B.A. Materielle Kultur: Textil program at the University of Oldenburg assigns the Letter of Motivation 40% of the total applicant score, and under certain circumstances, it reaches over 70%! (source)

icon

Geeky Stuff Box

You can find the LOM weights for various programs in the document called "Examination and Study Regulations" (in German, it is called "Zulassungsordnung"), mandatorily provided by study programs in Germany.

In other words, you should take the LOM seriously and invest enough time in writing it if you want your application to be of high quality!

icon

Advice Box

Do not forget that the Motivation Letter is where students can stand apart from the crowd. This document is not set in stone, meaning that it gives you a great chance to improve the quality of your application, hence increasing your admission chances. For instance, if you are applying for a Master's program and your desired program requires you to have a Bachelor's degree from a related field, a specific minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) and a letter of motivation, the latter is the only document which gives you an opportunity to strengthen your application, as the other two are more or less fixed.

How do I write a Motivation Letter for university admission in Germany?

This is a very popular yet very broad question to answer compactly. Hence, let us break it down into five frequent questions that we get at MyGermanUniversity.

1

What is the structure for the Letter of Motivation?

 

Luckily, there is a standardized structure for the LOM available for you, which you should always follow:

 

  • Introduction and Salutation.

  • Main body. This is supposed to be the longest part because here you elaborate on why you are a very good fit for the program and vice versa.

  • Conclusion and Valediction.

2

What is the format for the Letter of Motivation?

 

Keep in mind that your desired program may have some specific guidelines regarding the format. If it is not the case, follow the standard recommendations:

 

  • Margins: 2.5 cm, or one inch, on all sides.

  • Font size: 11- or 12-point of a standard script like Times New Roman or Arial.

  • Line spacing: 1.5-point.

  • Text alignment: justified (text is aligned with both margins).

3

How long should the Letter of Motivation be?

 

Usually, it should be between 500 and 800 words. In pages, this means between one and two pages of text if you follow the standard format. For example,

 

 

However, some programs might require you to have even more than 800 words. Therefore, we suggest you to follow the specific requirements set by the individual program. If the program of your choice does not provide any details, go for the standard "formula".  

4

How do you start a Motivation Letter for university?

 

You start a motivation letter for university by jumping straight into the point:

  • Introduce yourself;

  • State what this letter is for;

  • Briefly present your most important details;

  • Briefly describe why the program is the best fit for you, and vice versa.

5

What to cover? 

 

Basically, the last point of the previous paragraph is the answer to this question. To be more precise, in the Letter of Motivation, you should convincingly demonstrate why you are the best candidate and why the given study program is the best fit for you. To put it simply, you can do this by showing that you are very well aware of the specifics of the program, which perfectly fit your profile with respect to your education, experience, etc.

Guidelines provided by German Universities and Organizations

In general, German universities and organizations do not provide any specific guidelines for writing your LOM (intentionally - it’s supposed to be an open-ended task). In fact, sometimes it can seem impossible to find any. But do not worry - we’ve done the work for you! Our team managed to find some examples, which you can explore in the tables below.

Table 2: Guidelines from German Universities

University

City

Status

Guideline

Scope

LMU Munich

Munich

Public

link

Career & Work

Heidelberg University

Heidelberg

Public

link

Study Program

Goethe University Frankfurt

Frankfurt

Public

link

Internship

University of Freiburg

Freiburg

Public

link

Study Program

Hochschule Niederrhein

Krefeld/

Mönchengladbach

Public

link

Study Program

University of Konstanz

Konstanz

Public

link

Fellowship

Table 3: Guidelines by German Organizations

Organization

Headquarters

Guideline

Scope

DAAD

Bonn

link

Scholarship

Uni-assist

Berlin

link

Studies

Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

Bonn and Berlin

link

Scholarship

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Bonn

link

Fellowship

Different Letters of Motivation in the German University context

If you decide to study at a German university, you will probably find out that you will need to write more than one letter of motivation. Let us give a brief overview of potential types of a letter of motivation that might be relevant for you.

Letter of Motivation for Master’s

If you are going to pursue a Master's degree in Germany, then LOM for Master's is highly relevant for you. The reason is that it is required for most of the Master's programs at German Universities. You can find more information about this letter of motivation type here.

header

Further Reading

LOM for a Master's in Germany: A Guide (2022/23)

Letter of Motivation for Bachelor's

If you’re not yet ready for a Master’s in Germany, and you want to do your Bachelor's in Germany instead, then a letter of motivation is still quite relevant for you. Why? Because around 80% of Bachelor's programs in Germany do enlist this document as a standard requirement. Check out some of the examples here.

header

Further Reading

LOM for a Bachelor's in Germany: A Guide (2022/23)

Letter of Motivation for DAAD

In case you are planning to come and study in Germany with a DAAD scholarship, you will need to prepare a separate application package, which also includes the letter of motivation. However, in this case, the LOM is a bit different from the LOM that you would submit to a German university. The key differences are:

  • Length

  • Content 

  • Overall structure (although the basic structure is the same)

Find out more about the LOM for the DAAD here.

header

Further Reading

LOM for a DAAD scholarship: A Guide (2022/23)

Letter of Motivation for other scholarships

In fact, there are numerous ways of getting a scholarship! But there are some of the most popular ones (e.g., the 13 Public Foundations, or "Begabtenförderungswerke" in German) when it comes to studying in Germany, which you can find here. The organizations offering these scholarships do require you to submit the LOM. However, the specific requirements (e.g. regarding the format, content, etc.) vary from organization to organization.

header

Further Reading

Scholarships for international students (2022/23)

Letter of Motivation for Visa

If you need a visa to study in Germany, then you will need to apply for it at the local German Embassy/Consulate. The letter of motivation is a part of the application package. Here are some examples:

Country 

Source

India

link

Georgia

link

Nigeria

link

Like in the case of other LOM types, there is no universal guideline for the LOM for German Student Visas. Even the above-mentioned examples prove that: while in the case of Nigeria, it is specified that the LOM should be personally signed, should not be more than one page, etc., in the case of India and Georgia, such details are not mentioned. However, there is still one commonality that differentiates the LOM for Visa from other types of LOMs: in this type of LOM, as opposed to other LOMs, you should focus more on your future goals and how they are connected to your planned studies in Germany.

 

If you want to learn more about the LOM for Visa, click here.

header

Further Reading

LOM for a Visa in Germany: A Guide (2022/23)

Sample: Motivation Letter for a German University Admission

Before writing their own LOM, students often try to find a Letter of Motivation Example online (especially in the pdf format) to have a hands-on guideline to follow. In general, we recommend that you be very careful with such samples. 


It is fine to use a sample as long as you want to use it just as a guideline. However, beware that the Internet is full of low-quality samples, meaning that even if you behave ethically and just use it as a guideline, you are at high risk of ending up with a bad Letter of Motivation. Find out more about the Letter of Motivation samples here.

WARNING: PLEASE, DO NOT PLAGIARIZE! Just use our sample for the purpose of getting an overall idea of what the LOM should look like. In general, if you plagiarize or copy anything directly from any source, you will not be able to get away with it. The university or organization will find out about it, and your application will be immediately rejected.

header

Further Reading

Sample: LOM for Master's in Germany (2022/23)
icon

Summary Box

Letter of motivation is a document that has to be written by YOU! It is worth investing time into writing the LOM because:
  • It is required by most German study programs. Moreover, you will need it for a visa and for most scholarships; 

  • It is crucial. LOM is one of the key documents you need to apply to German study programs, with the weight sometimes reaching 40% (or even more!);

  • It is doable. As long as you invest enough time into preparing it, it is Mission Possible!