Studying in Sweden: seven tips for perfecting your application letter

Thinking of applying to study at a Swedish university? You’ve got a lot to consider. Should you start learning Swedish? Can you really treat your professors and lecturers as equals? And where are the secret nightlife spots you need to know about?

Studying in Sweden: seven tips for perfecting your application letter
Stockholm University student Narmina Guseinova

But wait! Before we come back to any of that, you need to make that all-important application to ensure you get into the university – and the programme – you’ve set your heart on. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Narmina Guseinova, an international student at Stockholm University and digital ambassador for Study in Sweden, to bring you seven simple tips for writing a successful application letter. Not all programmes require such a letter – also known as a motivational letter, personal statement or application essay – but for those that do it’s important to get it right.

Want to study at one of the world’s top 100 universities? Applications for Autumn 2022 at Stockholm University are now open

1. Introductions: Be brave (but not boastful)

The thing about first impressions is that, well, you only get one shot at it. That’s as true of an application as it is of a first date. If you really want that university place, don’t make the mistake of being instantly forgettable. 

“There are hundreds of motivation letters that the admissions team needs to read,” says Narmina, originally from Georgia, who is studying the two-year Master’s in Sociology programme at Stockholm University. Having an interesting introduction will make the reader more interested in the rest of the letter. You need to be creative – I know you are, just show it!” 

So, ask yourself what makes you stand out – or ask your friends! You don’t need to boast. But you do need to make your best qualities leap off the page! 

2. Do your homework!  

Think homework is only for school kids? Wrong! Universities want highly motivated students. You need to research the university and the programme you’re applying for, advises Narmina, and then be specific about what interests you and why. 

“I’m not telling you this because I’m a sociologist!” she says. If you do your homework, you’ll avoid writing the kind of banal sentences those poor admissions officers have seen a million times before.

“Instead of saying that the programme offers interesting, relevant courses, try to find out why,” adds Narmina. Go to the programme’s web page, read the syllabus, and find out who’ll be teaching you and what skills you’ll learn. Then get writing. Explain precisely why your preferred choice is the perfect fit for you – and vice-versa!

Check out the programmes available at Stockholm University (applications are open until January 17th)

A group of students on a university campus using their smartphones. Photo: Getty Images

3. And some research on Sverige!

If you’re applying from outside Sweden, remember to research the country as well! Still wondering about those questions above? Well, learning Swedish can be fun but the locals speak excellent English, so you’ll be fine without it – plus there are a huge range of programmes in English at Stockholm University. We hope you at least understand the word Sverige, though? (that’s Swedish for Sweden).

And, yes, international students often find the relationship between professors and students much more informal than in most countries. Now what about the nattliv (nightlife?) Perhaps you can take care of that one once you’ve finished your application. Who said homework is boring?

4. Be specific: show don’t tell

So, you’ve made a good first impression and done your homework. Well done! There are only a certain number of places, however, and the competition to fill them can be stiff. You’ve still got more to do before you can celebrate clinching your spot. “Why do they need to admit you and not other applicants?” says Narmina. “It’s time to show that you deserve this place!”

Keep in mind the ‘show don’t tell’ rule. Don’t put the admissions officer to sleep by telling them you’re ‘hard-working’. Do show them exactly how your hard work turned around a challenging situation – whether in your school studies, a job, or another area of life. Now, you’re taking shape as a real person in their eyes!

Stockholm University’s Frescati campus in the snow. Photo: Stockholm University

5. Focus on the future 

Going to university is the biggest investment in your future you can make. So, don’t write only about what you’ve already done. You also need to give a clear picture of your future intentions. Making a clear connection between the degree or Master’s you wish to study and your personal and professional ambitions will ensure you stand out as someone with the energy to pursue your life goals.

6. Highlight how you’ll help others

This being Sweden, you don’t want to talk only about yourself – and risk breaking Jantelagen (the Law of Jante) before you even know what it is! If you’ve already done some volunteering or fundraising work, be sure to mention that.

When writing about your future, ask yourself how you’ll use your university education and new skills to benefit other people. Don’t forget society and others,” says Narmina. “Try to include some details where you show that this particular programme, by being helpful for you and your plans, will in turn be helpful for others.”

7. Be your authentic self

You’ve heard stories of people exaggerating (or outright lying) in applications. But untruths can spiral out of control. Start as you mean to go on – as your authentic self. You’re applying for a coveted university spot because you’re brilliant, right?

“If you want to be creative, outstanding, and interesting, you need to be yourself,” says Narmina. “Nobody else can be you.” 

Want to study at one of the world’s top 100 universities? Applications for Autumn 2022 at Stockholm University are open until January 17th

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Norway shuts all schools and universities to fight coronavirus pandemic

Norway is closing all schools, kindergartens, and universities to slow the spread of coronavirus, in what Prime Minister Erna Solberg has called "the most far-reaching measures we have ever had in peacetime in Norway". (Paywall free).

Norway shuts all schools and universities to fight coronavirus pandemic
The law department at Oslo University. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“All the country's kindergartens, schools, primary schools, secondary schools, technical colleges and universities are to be closed,” Solberg confirmed at a press conference held at her cabinet office on Thursday, according to a report by state broadcaster NRK
The measures, laid out in detail on the website of Norway's Health Ministry, will apply from 6pm on Thursday and remain in force until March 26. 
They also include a provision requiring everyone who has arrived in Norway from anywhere apart from the Nordic countries since February 27 to enter into compulsory quarantine in their homes, whether or not they are displaying any symptoms. 
Solberg said that though difficult, the measures were necessary to slow the spread of coronavirus. 
“We are in a difficult time, both for Norway and for the world,” she said, according to the VG newspaper. “The drastic measures we are now taking are in the hope of stopping the virus. We are doing this in solidarity with the elderly, the chronically ill, and others who are particularly at risk of developing a serious illness. We must protect ourselves to protect others.” 
She warned employees faced with unexpected childcare demands not to call on elderly relatives for help. “We must remind you who we should most be looking out for. We should therefore not hand over childcare to grandparents who are in the risk category.” 
Erna Solberg delivered the address at her cabinet offices. Photo: Norwegian Government
Camilla Stoltenberg, Division Director at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, estimated at the briefing that between 22,000 and 30,000 people would be hospitalised as a result of infection, with up to 7,600 requiring intensive treatment.
The measures announced include: 
  • Closure of all schools, kindergartens and universities.
  • A provision requiring primary schools and kindergartens to stay partially open in order to look after the children of key personnel in healthcare, transport and other critical social functions.  
  • Cultural events, sports events, gyms and businesses offering hairdressing, skincare, massage, body care and tattooing are all banned. Swimming pools will be closed.
  • Buffet restaurants are banned. Other restaurants, bars and cafés must ensure guests are kept at least one metre from one another.
  • A requirement for everyone arriving in Norway from outside the Nordic to enter quarantine, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. This is retroactive to 27 February.
  • Restrictions on visitors to all the country's health facilities and the introduction of access control.
  • People are asked not to visit institutions housing vulnerable groups (old people's home, psychiatric hospitals, prisons etc).
  • Healthcare professionals working with patients are banned from travelling abroad.
Shops will continue to be open as normal, and the Ministry of Health advised people to shop normally and not seek to  hoard food.
The transport system will continue operating as normal, but people are encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel. 
Shortly after the press conference, King Harald V of Norway issued a statement saying that the Royal House was suspending all official engagements until Easter. 

“Our country is in a serious situation that affects individuals and society as a whole. It is crucial that we all participate in the national effort to avoid exposing ourselves or others to infection,” the release read. 

“It is therefore important that we all follow recommendations and orders from the authorities. We must contribute what we can to prevent the spread of the virus, and I would especially like to thank health professionals all over the country who are doing their utmost to remedy the developments. We all hope that the situation will soon turn around.” 

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.