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Sample Academic Cover Letter

For your final exam, I would like you to write about the papers you've written in class.  Discuss how each of these three pieces came into being, evaluate whether you think they successfully communicated a purpose to an audience, whether you enjoyed writing them (or not), whether you found your peer review letters helpful (include whether or not your own peer reviews helped you think about your own essays), why you've chosen to revise one particular piece--what revisions, specifically, have you made--and any other pertinent information about your papers you feel inclined to discuss.
On the day of your final, you will turn in your letter to me, your final draft, and your first draft graded by the panel (along with your journal entries).
What I'm asking you to do in this letter is to give a reflective, self-evaluation of your work this semester.  This sort of reflective self-evaluation is called metacognition, which is often asked of both students and employees.  Metacognition refers to higher order thinking and should allow you some distance in order to see yourself and your work from a different angle of vision. 

The following example illustrates one student's writing journey over the course of semester--she is writing for a portfolio class, which we, obviously, are not:
As I sit and examine my nearly completed portfolio, I ask myself if I will ever come down this road again, writing nontechnical pieces.  I am a prelaw student, and my writing usually consists of analyzing philosophers and commenting on Supreme Court decisions.  Like everyone, I have no idea what the future holds, but I do hope I can carry some of the editing and rewriting skills I have learned from this portfolio into my major.  That is not to say I wouldn't like to continue with writing: I really enjoyed the opportunity to develop a side of me that before was fairly untouched.
The first paper in the portfolio, "Exposed," recalls an experience with my ninth grade English teacher, Mrs. Flynn, which kept me away from the world of writing for a few years.  This piece really surprised me--it was the first piece we wrote and, consequently, the first one to end my nonwriting streak.  I was shocked at how easily it seem to lean out of my mind right onto the word processor, as if it was a story I had been longing to tell for a while.  Although Mrs. Flynn never reappears in the portfolio, my insecurities about my own writing were a constant hurdle for me to jump.
My advisory piece, "From Twists to Tangles: A Beginners Guide to Knots," is by far the piece I feel least comfortable with, yet many of editors enjoyed it the most.  Contrary to my bossy (prelaw student, remember?) personality, I felt like it was arrogant and condescending to advise others how to do anything.  Choosing a topic such as knots to label myself as an expert about was similarly difficult, as was actually figuring out "So how do you do it?"
The memoir "Air Fare" and the editorial "Hanukkah Bushes and Other Such Nonsense" I found very challenging to write.  My pit bull-like perfectionist side reared its ugly and head and chased me though many rewrites and headaches.  I believe these pieces were harder because they are both highly tied to experiences that my parents played a role in, and I wanted the final drafts to be a version I would be proud of giving to them.  They both deal with my religion and issues that have developed because of it.  My Judaism was a topic that proved so natural (not to say easy) to write about that once I started, I found that many pieces (including those that I omitted from the final cut for this portfolio) would end up exploring a minority/religious/Jewish angle of a situation.  Perhaps due to all the struggles with these pieces, they are the two that I like the most also, and would like to see eventually published.
What unites this portfolio?  I had found throughout these four works a number of "links."  Most notable is my sense of questioning that which surrounds me, including myself.  I question traditions around me, how people attack challenges, and how I have dealt with obstacles in my past.  Even my ideas for future pieces involve a questioning spirit. I was pleased to discover this, since I consciously value questioning, but wasn't aware it had seeped its way into my subconscious.  I had heard more than once the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "Nobody can make you feel inferior with your consent."  This I find ignorant; although I am never one to support anyone claiming that they are a victim for whatever reason, I think the emotion of feeling inferior is in a class by itself.  It is not an emotion one can straighten their back and walk away from, as Eleanor Roosevelt implies, since it is one of the emotions that cuts right to the bone and hurts deeply.  Although I have no feelings of inferiority to anyone anymore, it was an emotion I had some tough wrestling matches with when I was younger.
Writing this portfolio has proved to be an exploration in many senses.  As you read it and "explore" what I have to say, may you enjoy the journey, take some ideas with you, and, of course, tread lightly!

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