How to Write the Perfect Letter of Recommendation

Written by K Fisher on March 8, 2022

10 min read
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letter of recommendation

Now, this article is about the individuals who will be writing a ‘Letters of Recommendation for a student. Nevertheless, writing a letter of recommendation does follow a few strict codes of conduct to ensure that the student is not simply receiving a letter written by a family member.

As a matter of fact, that is the first rule, no family members can write a ‘Letter of Recommendation for a student. This means we will be covering the top tips and tricks needed to write a successful recommendation for a student that needs a college admissions recommendation.

Also, it should be known that all students who want to go to college will need a letter of recommendation and typically, no less than two.

The stages needed to properly write a letter of recommendation will be shown below:

  • Start off with a formal salutation – No one should ever start off a letter of recommendation with ‘hey’ or ‘what’s up.’
  • This type of ‘letter’ is in need of a business format. That means the letter needs to be typed out and printed. The 3 different business formats available are block, modified block, and semi-block styles.
  • Understand the type of letterhead needed, font size (11 or 12), and a typical font type like Arial or Time New Roman.

After knowing what entails a business letter structure, the individual who is writing the letter will need to use the first paragraph to introduce the student. It will need to be stated in the first 3 to 4 sentences about who the student is, what grade, and the connection between the individual writing the letter and the student.

The What Not To Do

A family member can not write a letter of recommendation for a family member who is a student. That goes against all college admission rules. If a family member who is a professor does submit a letter of recommendation for a child or family member, that letter will be rejected by the higher education institution.

There should never be any abbreviations when it comes to general language. There should be no form of ‘text chat abbreviation’ within the writing.

When it comes to detailing the student’s expectations, the letter should be proof as to why this student is considered exceptional and deserves to be enrolled within a particular university. With that in mind, if a teacher only details a student’s routine or basic expectations (like they turn in their work on time)… this is not what admissions look for in students. Admissions are expecting to read a harrowing description about a student’s vibrant leadership or community skills that simply seemed revolutionary.

For professors or teachers writing about a student’s achievements, this should not be the sole focus. Instead, there should be about a 20% mention of achievements and an 80% about that person’s character. When it comes to college admissions and a letter of recommendation, that institution wants to know from the perspective of a colleague or professor, why this student may in fact be a great fit for their university. Writing about a student’s character is a guaranteed admission entrance.

False praise or lack thereof would be considered not a contribution but in fact, would play against the student when it comes to college admissions. If a professor/teacher provides faint praise and instead adds much more criticism than there needs to be, the letter of recommendation will most likely be revoked. Because a letter of recommendation is about highlighting why a specific student would be the right fit for this college opportunity. Providing too much criticism would allow admissions to instead insist that the student is not the right fit for their educational institution.

What Should Be Written

The second paragraph and even the third should be dedicated to introducing the student and their character traits. This would mean, what makes the student stand out from the rest, or why is the student exceptional and deserves to achieve their higher education dream. Whether it’s for engineering, science, mathematics, linguistics, or another field study subject… this information matters.

The dication of the relationship to the student, a simple sentence like “current professor or past level 1 college professor in this specific class” is enough of an introduction on how the two individuals do know each other. There is no need to dedicate a whole paragraph to this teacher/student professional relationship.

Offering enthusiastic support is the right amount of intent that should be put into a letter of recommendation. This means a professor or teacher would need to provide the right reasonings as to why this student deserves this college opportunity. Also, the writer of the letter of recommendation should look into the requirements that are needed and the rules that should be followed depending on the college the student is applying to.

Each higher education institution has a different set of guidelines. Some request a two-page letter of recommendation, or some request a minimum of 3 letters of recommendation. It just depends on the college.

A few examples of what Universities expect when it comes to a ‘letter of recommendation:’

  • For the University of Seattle – Washington, United States: The required list includes mentioning a students G.P.A., grade, rank, intellectual engagement, work ethic, study habits, effort, enjoyment, curiosity, course content and concepts. Along with social maturity with other classmates, leadership skills, helpful intent, personality traits, mastery of technical skills, mastery of analytical skills, and writing ability.
  • The American University of Paris: Required two letters of recommendation
  • The University of Toronto: One letter of recommendation most have information on academics. This would be considered a professional academic letter. The second letter of recommendation would come from an employer of the student, this can be current or previous employement.
  • The University of Tasmania: At this university instead of a letter of recommendation, they are called: A Personal Competency Statement.
  • Stanford University: At Stanford, two academic letters of recommedation are required from two separate academic professors. Only one optional letter can be submitted, this is a letter of recommendation from someone who is not a teacher or teaching assistant. Stanford asks that the individual who writes the letter of recommendation to submit the letter directly to a single use email. The recommender will need to list the students full legal name, birth date, and school name from which the writer is writing from. Standford does have an available letter of recommendation checklist on their university website.
  • The University of Edinburgh: There is a difference for this univerfsity when it comes to recommendation letters, instead, the difference falls on reference requirements. These requirements will vary between degree programs that are happneing within the current year or the next. In fact, only some programs ask for specific references, while others require either one or two references. Find the specific reference requirements for the chosen program that is within a bachelor, master’s or Ph.D. degree level for that univeristy. However, the normal ratio is two letters of recommendation.
  • The University of Leeds: The university asks for students to submit only two letters of reference. Letters of reference can be from any lecturer or professor. From here only the professor or lecturer can submit their letters to a desired email that is given on the univeristy guideline website. From there, if there is any indication that information is needed or needed to be detailed further, the univeristy will only contact the individual that wrote the letter of recommendation.
  • The University of Barcelona: Part of the university of Barcelona’s application procedure involves a letter of recommendation. A provisional letter of acceptance which will need to be written by a professor will need to be submitted. Also, this is considered a personal letter of recommendation that will need to be from a student. A letter of introduction from the student, signed by a member of staff from your home university will be needed.
  • The University of Amsterdam: The university asks all applicants to inform the referee about the procedure before the introduction. The institution will need to receive the recommendation letters within a three week time period after a student has fully submitted their application. It is not possible to upload recommendation letters from the student themselves, this is against the rules. Only one referee is sufficient for the application process. So one letter of recommedation that lists the student academic abilites is needed. However, for a Ph.D. a separate letter detailing information from a lecturer will be needed which would fall under informed letter of recommendation.
  • The University of Melbourne: First off, the university of Melbourne does require a personal statement that does not exceed 500 words. Followed by that, a teacher or professor will need to write one letter of recommendation and a short follow up statement about the students English proficency.
  • The University of Vermont: All applicants will need to provide the school with at least a minimum of one letter of recommendation written by a previous teacher.
  • The University of Houston: A minimum of three letters of recommedation are required, A recommender (employer, faculty member, work associate, etc.) should comment on an applicant’s academic potential for graduate work in the College of Education. Applicants must provide email addresses for the recommenders.
  • Yale University: This university requires two letters of recommendation from teachers who have taught a student within credit-bearing classes during the academic year in core academic subjects (English, Foreign Language, Mathematics, Science, or Social Studies). This means either 11th or 12th grade high school teachers should be the individuals who write the letter of recommendation.
  • The University of Madrid: At least one letter will be needed and required, and a letter of acceptance will be needed. There will be mroe documentation needed and that means the writer of the letter of recommendation will need to send in through their own email to the university.
  • The Univeristy of Tokyo: A minimum of two letters of recommendations are needed. Japan tends to have a strict requirement list that is for there academic students. Especially for international students, these students will need to provide no less than three letters of recommendation.
  • The University of Georgia: They require only one letter of recommendation but it must come from a teacher that teaches in Georgia.
  • The University of Richmond: Richmond requires a recommendation letter from the secondary school Guidance/College Counselor or Principal/Head Master. Although they only require one recommendation from the counselor or principal, students may choose to send an additional one or two teacher recommendation letters. But it is better to send two letters instead of one. Students have had more success in doing so.
  • The University of Padua: A reference letter is needed for this universitiy, espeically if it’s an international student who is applying. And an academic letter will be needed from a professor.
  • The University of Portland: This college requires at least an essay and only one letter of recommendation from a teacher or counselor are required for first-year applicants. Second-year applicants do not need a letter of recommednation, even transfer students.
  • The University of the Pacific: An admission letter of recommendation is needed, this college has an admission reference form that can be filled out on their website by a teacher. However, it is stated that if the teacher wishes to not fill out the form they can write a traditional letter of recommendation. Two letters of recommendation at the required amount.
  • The University of Hawaii: Possible individuals from whom to request a letter of recommendation for students should be only professors who have previously taught the student. Advisors and other staff who ythe student have worked closely with on campus can write the reference letters. Also, employers, coordinators or individuals who are familiar with that students possible work ethic and volunteer service may write one letter of recommendation. However, one letter of recommendation must be based on academic terms. There is a requirement of no more than three letters of recommendation.
  • The University of Miami: There is a requirement for only one recommendation from either a school counselor or a teacher in an academic subject. This recommendation can be in the form of a letter; the Common Application School Report (preferred), completed by the student’s school counselor; or the Common Application Teacher Evaluation, completed by an academic teacher.
  • The University of Florida: For new freshmen students this in one of the only univeristies that do not need a letter of recommendation. But they are needed for second-year through fourth0year students.
  • The University of Louisville: Ironically enough the application process has mulitple steps, but a letter of recommendation is not one of them. That’s right no letters of recommendation are needed. Also, there are no need for any personal essays. The university only asks for optional ACT/SAT score submission. However automatic scholarship consideration is available as well as student’s being adminstered a quick admission decision.

Students should first conduct the needed research when it comes to applying to a university. No matter, how many places the students wish to apply to, they should always double-check to see how many letters of recommendation are expected and required. This happens to be a huge flaw with new students who are applying for college. They will either send in only one required recommendation letter or none at all. This is actually a huge disappointment for universities and a waste of time for their admissions office. Because admissions offices go through applications and will toss out which ones do not have all of the appropriate and needed entry requirement documents and materials.

This will just lead the student to nowhere and without any steady course where they eventually will end up studying, that is at a university or technical school.

All professional schools will need some form of a letter of recommendation. It’s just a fact and a requirement. But the biggest step that can be missed when a professor is writing a recommendation letter is detailing why that student has the qualifications to study at that higher education institution. Without a doubt, every individual who intends to write a recommendation letter should understand why that student wants to attend that university and what that university expects out of new exceptionally bright students.

If a student has not really applied themselves but shows a certain quality that may in fact be catered to in college, this could be a winning promise and written about in a letter of recommendation. We all hear about the ‘underdog’ and how those students go on to simply surprise the rest of the world with outstanding skill sets. It will be these defining moments about a student that should be focused on in a letter of recommendation.

The first rule of thumb for students who may be reading this article is to research their intended university of choice. Research the requirements and entry requirements. Look for the mention of ‘letters of recommendations’ they will always be listed, however, if a student is looking to attend an international school… they will be listed under a different title. Simply contact that website given information email to ask about that school’s letter of recommendation and what requirements would be needed to successfully fill out the correct entry requirements.

No matter what, it is always better to follow a university website’s guidelines, instead of making them up on the spot.

One thought on “How to Write the Perfect Letter of Recommendation

  1. Would you please send me a acceptance letter so that I will realized that I am one off the selected students

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