Tips on how to put together a successful university application

A guide to applying at IHS, Erasmus University Rotterdam

As an admission team at IHS, the institute for housing and urban development studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, we deal with a large number of applications at any given time and since we constantly see certain questions rising or patters repeating, we started putting together a mini-guide to help you find the light at the end of the tunnel (or should we say labyrinth?)

Putting together a successful application might not be the piece of cake you are expecting. Many students struggle with expressing their best qualities and strengths on a piece of paper and even more when it comes to justifying why they should be ones to get selected.

If you wonder why you even need any help, since your qualifications should just speak for themselves, well, it’s a little bit more complicated than this. For starters, applications submitted to IHS undergo a 4 week-long rigorous assessment process before the final result is clear. The IHS classroom has limited capacity which calls for a very strict selection procedure - only the best ones get the chance to become full-on urban managers. So from a pile of already successful professionals, it might be hard to win the race resting on your qualifications alone.

Okay, then. What should I do in order to write a good application?

Know what matters. The most important element of your application is the motivation statement. This is your chance to tell us about you and why you want to join the IHS courses and become an urban manager. We advise you to focus on explaining the link between the course and your professional and/or academic background. How did you decide to apply at IHS? How do you think you would benefit from the course both professionally and personally? In other words, why is this relevant for you? We want to make sure that the course for which you are applying matches your background, so you are able to acquire and utilize the information you receive in the best possible way.

You should also avoid just re-hashing your CV in the motivation statement. We already know a lot about your professional background from it and the motivation statement is a chance for you to explain why you are a great fit for the studies, which is something that can’t be seen completely from a CV. We receive some motivation statements that don’t explain motivation at all, but are just a long description of work experience, and we would recommend candidates to avoid doing that. Some basic details about work are fine, but it needs to be more than that. Your motivation should be between 300 and 500 words. Don't stretch it – be concise and straight to the point.

Your Curriculum Vitae (CV) is another essential element of your application so make sure it’s nice and neat. Its purpose is to provide a clear timeline of your professional experience and academic background at a glance. Try not to get too creative with the layout or fonts, as that might make it hard to read and do not overcrowd it by providing unnecessary information. As much as we would like to learn more about you, we do not need to know about a ballet performance you did at the age of five – be concise and include only relevant information.

Last but not least, make sure you submit a neatly prepared application. The IHS admission officers have to asses hundreds of master’s and post-graduate short courses applications every week which can be a very challenging job. Incomplete applications such as ones with missing attached documents or incorrect personal data can delay your application outcome, as you would be contacted to resubmit those details. So it is important to double-check whether you attached all the required documents and your personal data.

And of course none of this would matter if your application is not submitted on time so make sure you comply with the deadlines. Next to giving you the chance to benefit from the IHS early bird discount, receiving your complete application on time also guarantees that it can be processed on time. Remember, while a lot of people like to procrastinate, nobody likes procrastinators.

3 Key take-aways

Key take away 1: Spend time on your motivation letter

This is your ticket to studying urban management and development at IHS so you’d better make it good.

Key take away 2: Complete your application neatly

It makes a better impression and it makes a world of difference for the admission officers when reviewing your applications. You can use the check list below when preparing your application.


  • Double-check your personal data

  • Submit all required documents in a single PDF file

Key take away 3: Submit your application on time

Next to giving you the chance to benefit from the IHS early bird discount, it also guarantees that your application can be assessed on time. Remember, while a lot of people like to procrastinate, nobody likes procrastinators.

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IHS, institute for housing and urban development studies

of Erasmus University Rotterdam

Visitors' address

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
Mandeville (T) Building, 14th floor
3062 PA Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Mailing address

P.O. Box 1935
3000 BX Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Phone: + 31 10 408 9825

© 2019 by IHS, Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies

of Erasmus University Rotterdam