Despite the pandemic, graduate applications increased by 7.3 percent in 2020. Similarly, the number of students graduating and looking for their first job is also rising.
So, how do students stand out from their competition with the huge challenge of getting a job or into a graduate program?
One way is through a teacher's personalized and effectively written recommendation letter.
According to a study by the National Association of College for College Admission Counseling, 11 percent of colleges report that recommendation letters by teachers are of "considerable importance," while 46 percent claim they are of "moderate importance."
This article will cover everything you need to know about writing an effective recommendation letter. Let's dig in!
Professors or teachers write a letter of recommendation to highlight a student's capabilities and character.
Students need a recommendation letter to help them enter an academic program or kick-start their careers.
Recommendation letters show universities and companies the referee's account of an applicant's qualifications — their skills, strengths, and accomplishments.
When pursuing admission to a higher degree program, admission officers prefer to look beyond a person's grades or test scores and seek to gain an understanding of the student as a whole.
Similarly, as a fresh graduate applying for a job, you don't have a lot of work experience or previous colleagues who can be your reference to your character, work spirit, and dedication.
For both of these instances, the recommendation letters by a professor, mentor, or instructor come in handy. These letters play a huge part in showing the student's intellect, personality, and traits.
This is why recommendation letters from teachers carry a lot of significance in applications. A letter showing a strong vote of support, highlighting a student's exceptional academic and personal strengths, and showcasing how they will be an asset to the organization, has a powerful effect on that student's chances of getting accepted to the program or being offered the job.
It can be overwhelming if you have never written a recommendation letter before. You might not know what to add, what to leave out, and how to frame the content.
Let's go through five things you need to remember when writing a recommendation letter.
The recommendation letter should start with you stating your credibility as the student's mentor.
Start the recommendation letter with who you are — including your job title, the subject you teach, or the specific course you taught the student for whom you are writing the letter. Mention how you are qualified to speak on the student's behalf by being his mentor or instructor.
If you have never had the student in a class, you should specify your role as the coordinator of the extra-curricular activity or the club they were an active part of. What's important is to demonstrate a relationship between you and the student, so your opinions about them are viewed as credible.
Lisha Dunlap, Communications Manager at the University of Advancing Technology, says, "The most important part of a recommendation letter is specific examples of interactions between the candidate and the writer of the letter. Having a history with the person you've asked for a recommendation makes a big difference so that the writer can actually speak to a skillset related to a specific event or experience."
To make an effective letter more personalized for the reader, you can address them directly. Get the person's name to whom the recommendation letter should be addressed and write it like you are speaking to them.
Also include the person's role in the application process. For example, f it's a hiring manager, you can tell them how the student will contribute significantly to the team. If it's for a college student applying to a graduate program, you can address it to the admissions counselor or program director.
Find out if your student plans to use the same recommendation letter for different universities or companies. If that's the case, the best way to help them is by writing a more generic letter.
Now is the time to shine the spotlight on your student's brilliant academic career.
This section focuses on evidence for all the remarkable things that make them a great candidate for the university or company.
You shouldn't just stick to a list of facts and attributes. Instead, focus on anecdotes to tell the story of your student.
Pick characteristics and back them up with evidence. If you mention their motivation and dedication to their subject, show it through a brief story. You can talk about their academic career as a whole or focus on individual highs and achievements. Don't forget to make small measurable statements about their progress.
If you have known them for a while, you can include your impressions of the student and how you have seen them mature and develop as a responsible and dedicated adult. If you have an example, show how they have impressed you in the classroom.
Emphasize the courses or projects the student is applying for that are the most relevant to the job or the higher degree.
This section of the recommendation letter highlights the student's personal characteristics.
Now is the time to shed light on the student's behavior and qualities beyond the classroom.
You can connect their different interests and involvement in school activities to create a memorable portrait of them.
Talk about how they have participated in extra-curricular activities. Describe what they are like as a person. If they have leadership qualities, mention that. How do their hobbies or interests add to their potential as a student or an employee?
Do they go out of the way to help their classmates? What qualities make them a perfect fit for this graduate program or job? Why should the hiring manager or admissions counselor consider them instead of hundreds of other candidates? Have they overcome any particular struggle to continue their education?
Your closing is as important as your opening paragraph.
This section should have two important parts:
Now that we have gone into detail about the different sections of a recommendation letter, let's focus on the format and layout of the letter.
Have a look at the format of this recommendation letter from Coursera. The font is a 12-point Times New Roman, and the content is left-aligned.
The letter begins with the writer's contact information and the recipient's details. Then, after the salutation, the writer introduces themselves and jumps right into stating the characteristics of the student they are recommending.
Lastly, the writer has signed off with Sincerely and their name to close the letter.
It's more common to format the recommendation letter as a formal printed letter. Start a great letter with your contact information — name, title, email address, phone number — and the recipient's information.
It's preferable if you have the name of the person you are writing the recommendation letter to. If that's the case, include a salutation to start your letter — Dear Mr. Jim, Dear Dr. Grant. If you don't, you can address it to the hiring manager.
Avoid vague salutations such as "To Whom It May Concern" unless you don't have any other options.
Keep this paragraph short and sweet. Just mention your name, title, the student’s name, and how you know them. Also, note how long you have known them.
These paragraphs will focus on the academic and personal achievements of the student. Talk about what they have to offer, why they are qualified, and what makes them the right person for this opportunity.
Apart from academic achievements, also mention their contribution outside work. Mention their traits and characteristics and show how they excelled as a student.
This section is a short paragraph on why you are recommending this student. Tell the reader that you highly recommend the person without any reservation, and you know they will be excellent at this position once accepted.
Time to wrap things up. Mention that you are open to being contacted for further information. Share your email address and phone number in case of a follow-up conversation.
Sign off your letter with a formal closing, your name, and your title. You can also include your signature under your name if you are mailing a printed letter, as shown below.
There are several things to take care of when writing a strong recommendation letter. It's an important piece of communication between you and the hiring manager or admissions counselor regarding your student's future.
So, it's essential to write it in the best possible way. Here are some tips you should remember when you start writing a recommendation letter:
Now is not the time to mention a mistake your student made during their thesis presentation or when they got in an argument with a classmate.
No. You are writing this recommendation letter because you believe that this student is the best candidate for the job or degree program. So, don't add any comments or anecdotes that suggest otherwise.
The recommendation letter is a piece of formal communication between you and the company or the university. So, it's imperative that you stick with the business letter format.
The tone of the letter should also be professional and formal. Don't use jargon or slang. Just remember that you are a professional talking to another professional.
If you need help writing with a professional tone, check out Copy AI's Tone Changer tool, through which you can easily change the tone of the content. This tool helps you sound professional throughout the letter.
Dr. Taryn A. Myers, Associate Professor of Psychology at Virginia Wesleyan University, emphasizes against using gendered language. She says, "Sometimes, people will write about how "sweet" or "warm" women candidates are without emphasizing their intelligence and accomplishments. It does a disservice to female candidates when the letter does not mention research or other scholastic accomplishments."
It can be tempting to add several qualifications and achievements that the student has amassed over the years you have known them.
You can discuss two or three of their achievements that make them the best candidate for the position and then expand on that.
Try to stick to the ones most relevant to the job description. Provide specific examples to demonstrate that the student is fit for the role.
Before you begin, you should ask the student any instructions you should be aware of. Ask them how to submit the letter, if there is any specific section to add (some universities share a questionnaire to answer in the letter), and the deadline to submit it.
Make sure you have everything you need to write a relevant and valuable recommendation letter to the student to avoid negatively affecting their application status.
Colleen Stevenson, University Instructor, advises sticking to what's required of the recommendation letter. She says, "The most important part of a recommendation letter is meeting the requirements. What are they actually looking for? Do they want to know that a student had the highest grades in class or that they were a good student with a good attitude who attended and participated? Rather than just using a template, you should review the requirements for the position and make sure you address them."
Now that you know how to write a recommendation letter let's look at an example to get some inspiration.
In this recommendation letter, a former supervisor shares the characteristics and traits of the candidate that make him a good fit for the graduate school program.
After introducing himself and how he is related to the candidate, the writer discusses the candidate's achievements, skills, and behavior with his peers.
The sample letter ends with the contact information of the referees in case the admissions counselor needs more information and is signed off with a simple greeting.
Writing a glowing letter of recommendation makes a massive difference for the students. With the tips and pointers mentioned in the blog, you are well on your way to writing a recommendation letter that impacts your student's application process.
If you need help writing with a professional tone, check out Copy AI's Tone Changer tool at copy.ai.
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