Some of you may be already thinking this, but what exactly IS a motivation letter? To summarize: a motivation letter is used when applying for something, IE: voluntary work, university acceptance, internship, etc.
Now you may be thinking, "Isn't that what a cover letter is for ??" Simply put, no. A cover letter is notoriously used when applying for a job. It has various other uses but in generic terms, cover letter = job. Now that we know what each letter is meant for, let's go through some scenarios and see what type of letter we should use.
You want to apply for a scholarship, which will provide financial aid to your college endeavors. Which letter gets the call? If you said motivation letter, you're CORRECT! Great job! Let's try another!
You find out about an interesting job within the local university. It pays well and gives you great flexibility for you to go to school. Which letter would this be? I'll give you a hint: It rhymes with hover. Yep, COVER LETTER! Now that might have been someone tricky because it was for a local university. Remember, it was for a job, not scholarship. Lets continue!
You recently graduated from undergraduate school. Your ambitions lead you towards a Master's program at the state university. What letter would you use now? Ding, ding, ding! If you said motivation letter, that is CORRECT! Since you are applying for a college education, a motivation letter is what would be expected during your application submission
Lets try another. You see a local ad in the newspaper asking for volunteers at an animal shelter. The shelter requests you to fill out application paperwork to be considered for the position. What letter would you choose? The correct answer is motivation letter. The reason being, it is a volunteer position and not specifically a job.
Last one! You're currently working for a prominent employer. You have been eying for the next promotion and notice they posted a higher level position which you are eligible for. You want this next promotion but you NEED to make sure you put the right letter in. What do you do ?! If you said Cover letter, you are CORRECT!
By now, you should have a pretty good grasp on the difference between a motivation letter and a cover letter. So next time you see a good internship to apply for or that next job application you fill out, you know exactly what letter should be submitted for the particular use.