Writing a letter of intent as a pharmacy student or resident can be challenging. To help make the task easier, five simple tips for writing a letter of intent are provided here.
Written By: Timothy P. Gauthier, Pharm.D., BCPS-AQ ID
[Updated last: 7 November 2017]
As a pharmacy student, pharmacy resident, and academician I have spent a great deal of time reading about letters of intent, helping others write letters of intent, and reviewing letters of intent submitted in application packets. Writing a letter of intent is not a natural skill for most people and to compose a fitting letter of intent takes strategy.
Some letters of intent from pharmacy students and pharmacy residents have been outstanding, while most are somewhat generic, and some are so poorly constructed readers are left confused. I believe that everyone has the capacity to write a strong letter of intent and that sometimes it helps to have a few tips when preparing it. With this in mind the following is provided.
Here are five tips for writing a letter of intent as a pharmacy student or resident…
1. Write your letter of intent in chronological order
Where have you been? Where are you now? Where are you going? These are the three sections I recommend splitting your letter of intent into. There are three main benefits of this format: (1) the reader can see a clear career path, (2) it gives you an easy way to dovetail your experiences with what the program is looking for in a candidate, and (3) you can match your future goals to what the program has to offer.
In almost all writing it is helpful to tell a story and doing it in this fashion can be a simple way to complete the task. Prior to starting the letter, make sure to compose a list of different things you want to include in each section. You can then arrange the materials you want to go in each section into an outline that suits you while avoiding talking about the same topic twice.
2. Identify key terms that describe your character before you start writing
Many letters of intent have the same generic descriptive words or lack the necessary number of adjectives for the reader to get a good idea of what kind of person the applicant is.
Brainstorm what makes you a good candidate ahead of time, then add terms into the letter of intent during the writing process or even at the end. Try to pick terms that are honest to your character and not just things you think people want to hear. Also, be careful to avoid forcing words into your letter that do not fit naturally.
Here are some example terms to consider: motivated, self-starter, intelligent, friendly, communicative, open to feedback, passionate, creative, organized, reliable, persistent, inquisitive, driven, team player, personable.
3. Try your best to be genuine and definitely do not embellish or lie
A letter of intent is an opportunity to tell YOUR story. Do not make the mistake of attempting to tell a story that you think other people want to hear. This means being honest and genuine.
During an interview it is fairly common to get questions from your letter of intent, so if you do decide to stretch the truth you are risking getting caught. Play it safe by being honest.
4. Be your own cheerleader
I once read a letter of intent from a pharmacy student who had won national awards, had excellent grades, and was highly involved in pharmacy organizations. Hardly any of this was mentioned in her letter of intent.
Do not be too modest. A letter of intent is meant to provide a platform to highlight accomplishments. Sometimes in life you need to be your own cheerleader and this is one of them.
After you finish your letter of intent, consider reviewing your CV to make sure you did not leave out anything that should have been mentioned.
5. Show your letter of intent to a few people and get their opinion
Once your letter of intent is written show it to at least three people for feedback:
- One of you peers
- One (or two) of your pharmacist mentors
- Someone you know that has nothing to do with pharmacy
Your task will likely be complete if all of these people cannot find grammatical errors, can understand your letter, and feel it represents you well.
Bonus tip: write a personal mission statement before writing your letter of intent
To write a good letter of intent you need to know about yourself, including your personal and professional goals. Writing a personal mission statement only takes about two hours and is an excellent way to help identify what you want in life.
Here is a resource for completing this task.
Additional resources for letter of intent writers
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacy New Practitioner Resources
- American College of Clinical Pharmacy: Emerge From The Crowed: How To Become A Standout Residency Candidate
- Phorcas Letter Of Intent Page
- UCSF: Writing A Letter Of Intent For Pharmacy Residency
- Wisconsin: Professional Pearls for Writing a Pharmacy Residency Letter of Intent
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