Internships in Europe

Cover Letter

The following guidelines are meant as a framework to assist and guide students writing their EPA cover letters.

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Keep in mind that all cover letters are sent directly to potential supervisors of internships at the company/agency where we hope to place you.

Your cover letter, therefore, is one of the most important aspects of your application, more so perhaps then your resume or your transcripts. Think of it as a cover letter you would write if applying for a job. You are introducing yourself and in a sense "selling" your qualifications for the position. It does not have to be long, but a well written, well thought out cover letter can will help us in matching you with a supervisor and give the supervisor an indication of your aspirations and abilities.

Clearly state both your short-term and long-term goals.

Short-term goals refer directly to what you hope to gain from the internship itself whether it is learning about the inner-workings of a particular type of company/agency, gaining knowledge or a skill in some small aspect of your field, or finding out whether you do indeed like your chosen career field (Many students go away quite happy having learned that what they thought they wanted to do the rest of their lives was not at all what they wanted to do!). In any case, be as specific as possible so potential supervisors and EPA can get a good grasp of what you are looking for. Long-term goals refer mostly to your career and personal goals. Again, be as specific as possible. Clearly defined goals will serve to show a supervisor that you are serious about learning, serious about your field, and serious about working for them. They will also help both EPA and supervisors determine whether you are indeed a good match for that particular company/agency.

Demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of the issues involved in your field.

Write about a research project you worked on or about a previous job or internship, then relate it back to your goals. Show that you are interested in some particular part of your field. Don¹t be afraid to get too specific here! As long as you can relate it to your goals and as long as you show enthusiasm for some small aspect of your field, supervisors will see it as a definite plus.

Don't mention specific companies or agencies for which you would like to work in your cover letter.

Referring to specific organizations will only "pigeon hole" you. If for some reason, EPA cannot find a placement within that particular agency, we will have to send your materials elsewhere and there is nothing worse then a supervisor reading an cover letter from a student who goes on and on about working for a rival company! If you have a strong preference for one company/agency over another, note this in a separate statement to EPA and we will do our best to accommodate your wish.

Mention precisely the types of activities in which you hope to be involved.

Keep your expectations realistic however. Supervisors are hiring interns not junior executives or research scientists. At the same time, though, you are coming into the position with certain skills and of course you would like a chance to use them to their fullest. Prove to your supervisor that you posses these skills during your tenure with them, mention them in your cover letter, but indicate some flexibility and willingness to try new things and to learn at the same time. Discuss other assets you would bring to an internship. Specific skills in your particular field are of course quite important, but have you thought of other types of skills you have to offer? Communication, organizational, interpersonal, and planning skills are a few that supervisors look for in interns. It is one thing to write that you posses, for example, organizational skills, but it is another to give a clear example as to how you applied these skills to a particular professional or academic task.

Keep to the subject at hand.

You are writing what is in essence a cover letter for a type of job. Supervisors do not care to know that when you were 10 years old you looked up and saw Big Ben and knew that one day you wanted to come back to the UK to work or that experiencing the "culture" of "England" will make you a better person in the long run. These are quite important aspects of your overall internship abroad experience and they can be expressed to EPA to help us better understand your personal background, but they do not necessarily relate to the internship you are seeking. Browse your library for books on writing good cover letters for job searches and you will find a wealth of information to guide you in writing your EPA cover letter.

Write thoughtfully, clearly, logically, and please, PLEASE, show that you have a proficiency of written English.

One of the biggest complaints we hear from supervisors about student cover letters is that they are poorly written. Spelling mistakes are common; incorrect or awkward grammar is likewise. Use good, professional language with proper punctuation. Avoid American colloquialisms, slang, and grandiose terminology. Keep your language simple and to the point. Many internships require students to write letters, documents, reports, brochures, etc., and a good grasp of formal, written English is essential to convey to your supervisor from the very start. Proofread your cover letter and proofread it again. Have someone else read it and make corrections. And by all means, use a spell check if you have one!

Grandiose terminology to avoid:

Vague terminology to avoid:

A few specific phrases to avoid and suggestions for substitutes:

to immerse oneself in a foreign culture becomes to experience various aspects of a different society
to broaden or open one's mind becomes to change one's perspective
to get hands-on learning becomes to gain practical experience
the real world becomes (your career's) daily work environment
I get excited about becomes I look forward to
I cannot stress how much I becomes I would very much like