3 pitfalls to avoid for a successful cover letter

3 pitfalls to avoid for a successful cover letter

If you are planning your future studies in higher education in France, it is likely that you will have to write a cover letter, which is an essential part of your application.

Some might think that this is an administrative step, a ‘box to tick’ to be eligible for an admissions interview. Well, that’s not quite true.

While the CV often follows a standard format, a model adapted to most situations, the letter is addressed to a specific person, motivates a particular request, and meets specific requirements.

Moreover, the letter provides information – like the way you fill in an application form – about your personality, your command of the language, the usual formalism, your rigour, for example, in formatting.

There is no question of skipping this stage by providing a letter that is too quickly written and not adapted. To put all your chances on your side, it is essential to devote the necessary time to it.

You will find lots of advice on the web on how to write your letter well, particularly on how to structure it and what points to emphasize.

To avoid repeating them, we have chosen to share with you 3 pitfalls to avoid, based on the experience of hundreds of letters received by our teams.

 1. Not addressing the right people

What could be more vexing than receiving a message that is not addressed to you? Well, that’s exactly what happens when a school’s admissions panel receives a letter addressed to another school or programme, for example…

Once the slightly offensive side is over, it does not give a good impression of the application either, as it seems to have been treated a little lightly.

If reading these few lines makes you smile, you should know that it is not uncommon to find application letters that are very approximate in terms of the school or programme they are promoting.

Our first piece of advice: be precise and careful to address, quote and highlight the specific school and programme you are applying for.

2. Overdoing the “big words”

Greetings in cover letters are a bit like hot oil on pizza: a little is good, a lot is too much, and it can leave a bit of a stigma…

There’s no need to overly compliment the school you’re applying to or the programme in question, as this can have the opposite effect to the one you’re aiming for by giving the impression that you’re insincere or that you’ve just copied and pasted from the web.

Saying hello, thanking, and being available is what is expected from greetings. For the rest, tell us about yourself, your project and how/why you think you belong in the programme of study.

3. Not signing your letter

Finally, although this may seem like a detail, in reality it is far from being one: a letter is something that commits you, it is a form of declaration that you make, an expression of intention. As such, it is essential to sign it.

We receive too many “anonymous” letters, ending with a polite sentence, without a signature. Perhaps you think that this is self-evident, as the latter is provided with a complete file in your name, and the recipient of the file knows that you are the author…

And yet, even if there is no doubt about your identity, the absence of a signature sounds like a lack of interest in the process, like a lack of personal involvement. Even if you make several applications and therefore several letters, each one should be signed by your name, showing your personal commitment to the project.


After reading this article, there are no more excuses for falling into these common traps. It’s up to you to put all the chances on your side to succeed in your application. And don’t forget that FIGS Education and its teams around the world are here to help you with your study project. Come and visit our offices: helping you is our mission!