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7 Tips for Writing Strong Letters of Recommendation

Written by CB Community

Every student knows that getting a letter of recommendation can be one of the most important things on their application. This article is all about writing those letters.

Keep it positive! If you genuinely believe that this student is successful at your alma mater, then say so.

When writing the letter, you want to show the admission committee members why they should accept the candidate you’re recommending over the other applicants, and letters of recommendation from teachers who think their students are just okay won’t work.

It’s also crucial to find an excellent template to use when preparing the recommendation letter. It will help you follow the appropriate structure and not miss any detail.

If you have a suitable template and are ready to begin, let’s look at some tips for what you should include in your letter and ask people for their endorsements.

1. Start With a Strong Opening Sentence

One of the essential things you can do to write a good letter of recommendation starts right at the beginning with your very first sentence.

A strong opening sentence will clarify why the person is recommended for something they are applying for or pursuing. You are also recommended to give specific reasons as to how exactly that person meets those qualifications.

For example: “I recommend Ms. Smith wholeheartedly because she has always been an excellent student in my lessons, and I’m not surprised she is now ranked at the top of the class.”

This kind of statement makes it pretty clear why one would want her involved in whatever activity or organization is being discussed and detail what sets her apart from other students who have also performed well academically.

2. Get the Reader’s Attention

Describe your achievements in a way that will make the reader remember you.

Here’s an example: “I’ve worked as an English teacher for 23 years; Susan has been my student for seven years, and I advised her in our Literature Club.”

This sentence not only lets the reader understand that you’re experienced enough but also that you know the candidate well and long enough to give an adequate evaluation of their skills and capabilities.

Note that the person writing the letter must be a scientist or teacher who knows the student well and can speak confidently about their potential in this or that sphere.

It’s not a good idea for the recommendation letter to be prepared by a family member or neighbor.

3. Keep It Short

A strong letter of recommendation is a powerful tool for the student who has earned it.

To ensure that you give your students the best chance to succeed, keep this tip in mind as you work on the letters: keep each paragraph short and sweet and write your letter on no more than one page!

Make sure every paragraph reflects positively on the applicant’s character or abilities. You don’t have to detail negative aspects of their personality here; save those thoughts for another place.

Here, just focus on what they can do well and why you think they would be successful at college.

4. Be Honest

Many colleges and universities state that it is better not to write a recommendation letter if you can’t find anything positive to say than to include negative comments.

For example, if the person is shy, don’t say that she never spoke up at lessons, even if that’s true. Instead, say something like, “She was always willing to help out when needed.”

It’s crucial that the person giving the recommendation can speak highly for the student and describe their talents and skills relevant to the position or program they are applying to.

But if you can think of nothing positive about your student, don’t write the letter. You should ask your contact if they know anyone else who could write one instead.

You’ll spare both any embarrassment and discomfort.

5. Write As If You Are Talking to Yourself

This can be a tough one to accomplish. It is easy for anyone who has been asked to write a letter of recommendation for someone else to fall into the trap of writing what they know about that person rather than talking about themselves in relation to that other person.

For example, if John Doe applied for an academic program at a university and you were asked to provide information on him as part of the application process, then it would be very tempting to simply use language like “John does this” or “John likes doing that.”

While these words may seem appropriate because they describe activities he participates in, they are not strong enough when used alone without any context around them.

Try to write something like, “I supervised John while he was completing his internship at XYZ company.” This keeps it personal and emphasizes your role in the situation. This may take some rewording of sentences to make them more personal, but it will be worth the effort.

6. Close the Letter

To close, write something like “I highly recommend this candidate” or “I hope to see this person at your company soon!” This looks pretty good!

Make sure that you spell-check and re-read the letter one more time before you submit it.

Try not to write for too long either; most recommenders tend to err on the side of being too wordy rather than not descriptive enough.

7. Include Your Contact Information

Make sure you include your contact information at the end of the letter.

This will make it easier for whoever reads your statement to follow up with you and ask questions if they need clarification on something you wrote about the person or project.

If it isn’t possible, consider providing an alternative way to reach out, such as email or phone number, so that people who read the letter can get in touch with you one way or another.

Key Takeaways

Writing a letter of recommendation can be difficult.

However, by following these points, your chances of creating a successful letter of recommendation will skyrocket, allowing you to make a great impression on anyone who reads it.

Let’s have a quick look at all the tips mentioned earlier again:

  • Make the letter sound personal.
  • Don’t dwell on weaknesses.
  • Be honest, but don’t make things up.
  • Close by writing something like “I highly recommend this candidate” or “I hope to see this person at your company/university soon!”
  • Remember to include your contact information at the end of the letter.

There is no “right” way to write a letter – just make sure your content sounds good and looks professional.

If something doesn’t sound right or look right, don’t do it!

About the author

CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.