Letters of intent, or LOIs, run the gamut from statements of purpose to graduate schools, cover letters to prospective employers and letters to obtain grant funding. What they have in common is a succinct, yet detailed discussion of your future plans and objectives. In some cases, the LOI is accompanied by a request for funding or assistance to fulfill those plans.
Jobs and Careers
When you are looking for a job, a letter of intent expresses your interest in working for a company and asserts your qualifications for the job. Such a letter is essentially a cover letter, with an introduction that states your reasons for applying for a position, a body that links your skills and competencies with the needs of the company, and a final paragraph reiterating your interest and requesting an interview.
In the business arena, the letter of intent serves as a precontractual communication that proposes the terms and conditions that eventually lead to a binding contract. The letter of intent itself may be binding or not and can take on many different forms. Business letters of intent tend to fall into several general categories. One example is the assurance letter, which cements the commitment of the parties to negotiate exclusively. Another is a framework letter that outlines responsibilities, deadlines and issues to resolve. Other letters memorialize agreed-upon terms and publicly announce impending transactions, such as mergers.
Foundation Grant Funding
In the pursuit of a grant, you or your organization may be required to write a letter of intent to a foundation. In this case, the LOI serves as a forerunner to an eventual proposal: If the foundation likes the LOI, it will ask for the complete proposal. The LOI should provide a compelling summary of the project in a journalistic manner that accords with the tone of the foundation. It should encompass in three pages a description of your organization, the issue you are addressing, your budget and any other information requested by the grantor.
Educational and Academic Pursuits
Academics and scholars have their own version of a letter of intent, sometimes referred to as a statement of purpose or application essay. In this type of LOI, you -- the prospective candidate to a program -- must convince an admissions committee that you would be an asset to the school's community. An academic LOI should include specific courses you have taken and notable professors with whom you have studied. It should discuss relevant extracurriculars, publications in the field and the reasons you have chosen this school as the place to pursue your studies -- for example, it has a professor whose research you admire.