If you are someone who works closely with college students, you will most likely be asked to write a recommendation letter for graduate school by one or more of these students. Here are a few tips on how to write an effective recommendation letter for graduate school:
1. Ask the right questions.
Before agreeing to write a recommendation letter, ask the following questions:
- What is the purpose of the letter?
- What does the student expect you to write on the recommendation letter for graduate school?
2. Request the materials you will need.
This will aid you to write a good recommendation letter for graduate school. These are the things that will support what you will say about the student’s qualifications and preparedness for graduate school. The materials you will need are:
- The student’s resume
- His Transcript of records
- His admissions essay
- A list of his accomplishments
- A list of the projects and courses you had with the student
3. Study the application materials.
Before writing the recommendation letter for graduate school, make sure you have read the application materials for the graduate program the student is applying for. This will help you get an idea on what you should write in the letter. You will then be able to write a recommendation letter that will show how equipped and competent the student is for the graduate course he wishes to be admitted to.
4. Provide examples showing the qualifications of the student.
Provide the details about the student’s accomplishments. Tell a story about how the student accomplished these things. Comparing him to other students you know is also an effective strategy.
5. Answer the following questions:
- What are the contributions the student made during class discussions?
- How did he show his leadership ability?
- What extracurricular activities did he have?
- How good is he with interacting with people?
- What research projects has he been part of? How well did he do?
- What are the goals of this student?
- What scholarships has he been awarded with?
- Why does he want to pursue graduate studies?
Here’s a Sample:
Writing an effective recommendation letter for graduate school is not a piece of cake. A good recommendation letter should have all of these characteristics:
- Shows how you are associated with the student. Was he your student, your research assistant, your advisee?
- Provides an evaluation of the student with regards to your area of expertise.
- Provides an evaluation of the student’s academic competence.
- Provides an assessment of a student’s maturity. Graduate school entails more than academic excellence. The student, if admitted, may experience failure numerous times. An effective recommendation letter for graduate school explains how the student will be able to cope with these failures psychologically.
- Discusses both the weaknesses and strengths of the student. An effective recommendation letter for graduate school has to be realistic. It mentions the negative characteristics of the student, but makes sure the positive notes outweigh the negative ones.
- Provides important details. An effective recommendation letter for graduate school provides as many details as possible. It is not enough to enumerate his qualities. It is also important to provide detailed examples.
- Written honestly. The main purpose of the recommendation letter is to help the student get admitted to graduate school. This does not mean you have to make up stories to show he is above average. Your reputation will also be on the line. What happens if you write a glowing recommendation letter for a student who is not a good fit for graduate school? The faculty at that graduate school will remember. They will take your letters less seriously in the future.
If you are writing a recommendation letter for graduate school, ask them who their other writers are. If possible, make a letter that supports the other letters of recommendation for one particular student. If you don’t feel like writing a recommendation letter for a student, just say no. You can also just help the student find someone who will be able to write an effective recommendation letter for graduate school on his behalf.