Academic Internships Office

What is a Cover Letter?

The cover letter (or application letter) is an introduction to your resume and other application materials. It should communicate to the prospective employer a personalized message about your interest and your potential value to that organization. It should complement and enhance your resume but not repeat the same information. For example, if you indicate on your resume that you supervised another employee but don't have room to tell more about your supervisory responsibilities, use the cover letter to tell more about your supervisory skills and responsibilities. You should choose the most critical pieces to put on your resume and enhance that information in your cover letter. Always try to write in relation to what will relate to the position or to the business or organization. This is a business letter so information must be clear, direct and purposeful.

Jump to: Cover Letter Structure | Helpful Hints | Resources and Samples

Cover Letter Structure

Opening Paragraph

Indicate why you are writing the letter, name the specific position or type of work for which you are applying, indicate from what source you learned of a possible opening. (their web page, Academic Internship Office, a friend, etc.) You will need to hold the employer's attention by focusing on points of interest that match the company needs. It should announce your competency in contributing to the success of the organization.

Subsequent Paragraphs

Indicate why you are interested in the position, the organization, or its products and services. Mention your qualifications and skills that would be of interest to the employer and how you feel your academic background makes you a qualified candidate. If you have work experience, point out the achievements you feel to be relevant. The information in this paragraph should support your assertion that you can significantly benefit the organization. Each concept should be developed in a succinct, interesting manner. You may refer the reader to the enclosed resume, which summarizes your qualifications, training and experience.

Closing Paragraph

You may make a specific request for a meeting. Indicate your flexibility as to time and place. If you like, you may repeat your telephone number in the letter. Close your letter with a statement or question which will encourage a speedy response. Try to keep the next action in your hands. Try not to leave it to them to contact you. For example:

  • State that you will be in the vicinity on a certain date and would like to stop in. If you do this, be sure you are not expecting an interview. You are there to express how serious you are in the position and to ask if there is anything further you can offer for their consideration of you for the position.
  • State you will call on a certain date. The purpose for this is the same as above.
  • Ask if the organization will be recruiting at PLU.
  • Offer that you would be happy to provide additional information or references.

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Helpful Hints

  • Your letter should be only one page. Use margins, and font size and style to help you make it a balanced and attractive document.
  • Use the same paper you use for your resume.
  • It must be letter perfect. There can be no spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors!
  • Avoid abbreviations except for the two-letter state abbreviations and any that are commonly understood.
  • Be sure your return address and contact information that is complete and accurate.
  • Be sure you include the date written and sent.
  • The inside address should be complete, including addressee's name and title, also the organization name and complete address. Be sure you address the letter to a person and avoid "To Whom It May Concern" if possible. If you do not have the name of the person to whom the letter should be addressed, usually the Academic Internship Office can provide that.
  • Have someone proof read your letter and give you feedback on it.
  • The Academic Internship Office is happy to help you with your letter. Bring in a draft or final copy and we'll help you refine it or proof read it for you. Or you may e-mail it to the Director of the Internship Office.

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Resources and Samples

Below there are three sample cover letters. Remember, these are samples and should not be copied. Your letter needs to be specific to YOU and to the employer and position to which you are applying.

Download sample cover letters:

  • Communications: Journalism - applying with an organization that has not posted an internship
  • English – relating qualifications directly to information in the posting
  • Graphic Design – focusing on personal background as a primary qualification along with specific application of skills

The Academic Internship Office is happy to help you with your letter, whether you start with a draft or not. Call 253-535-7459 for an appointment or e-mail it to

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PLU is committed to providing equal opportunity in employment and in education for all members of the University community without regard to an individual's race, color, creed, religion, gender, national origin, age, mental or physical disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any other status protected by law.