HOW TO WRITE A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION
When students apply to undergraduate or graduate programs the application process usually includes at least two recommendations from teachers or professors who can honestly evaluate the student's academic ability and potential as a scholar. These letters count a lot in making the decision on whether or not to accept a student, so it is important that you provide the admission committee with the kind of information that is most helpful. Your colleges are relying on your judgement and expertise to help them to make the right decision.
Only agree to write a recommendation if you can write a positive one. It is best to be honest with the student and tell them to ask someone else if what you have to say is going to hurt their chances of acceptance.
Find out what the student's specific goals are before you begin writing the recommendation. You want to emphasize the aspects of their personality and academic performance that relate to that goal.
The letter should include:
- Your status - positions at the university (school) or job title. How long have you know the student and in what capacity (as a teacher, an adviser a research supervisor, etc.)
- The better you know the student the more effective your recommendation will be. They want specifics, NOT generalizations. It is good to say that someone is hardworking and organized, but you need to back up these statements with concrete examples. "Julia is a hardworking student. Her research project on unemployment in Akademmitstechko was though and was an impressive demonstration of her ability to work with and analyze statistics." Talk about what the student has done and is capable of doing. What is it exactly about the student that makes her or him special? Why do you think this student would benefit from studying in the US?
- Evaluate the student by comparing him/her with other students you have observed in your work. You may wish to use the following suggestion of categories for comparison. You can use phrases such as excellent, very good, average, or below average, but remember to justify your opinion!
- Intellectual Ability
- Teaching Potential
- Knowledge of Field
- Resourcefulness and Initiative
- Motivation to Pursue Graduate Study
- Work Habits
- Seriousness of Purpose
- Emotional Maturity
- Adaptability to New Situations
- Potential for Significant Future Contribution in Field
Qualify your impression. Is the student in the top 5% of his/her class (is he better than 45% of his/her classmates)? Top 10%, 25%?
One page is sufficient (or the space provided in an application). Quality, not quantity, is what is important. Make every sentence count. Do not put something in if an immediate connection cannot be made between that information and the student's ability to participate in the program.
Technically, students are not supposed to see the recommendations. Most schools ask that the recommender put the letter in an envelope, seal in shut, and sign over the seal. (If the original is not in English, be sure to have it OFFICIALLY translated and include both the original and translation!!!)