Using Letters of Recommendation for Admissions Purposes

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You have probably heard of a letter of recommendation from your guidance counselor or your high school adviser when they talk about college admissions. This letter of recommendation is also sometimes called a recommendation letter. However, the former is the proper term when used for college applications and the latter is most commonly used for employment purposes. Either way, it is a letter that describes the characteristics of a person, as it lists the positive and negative qualities of an applicant to be evaluated. These qualities and characteristics are listed based on a particular task or function that you have already performed. This is why it is usually made by one who has worked with you, the applicant, or someone who has known you for a certain length of time. Recommendation letters are usually associated with employment, admissions to the school, or applications for scholarship programs.

Some universities require a student to submit a letter of recommendation, while others do not require its submission but will consider any that have been submitted. So, how do you know whether to submit one or not? First, check out the admissions requirements of the school you are applying to. If it is listed as a requirement, then you should be able to submit at least one letter. If the university does not require one, you may still submit this letter in order to help persuade the admissions committee.

If you need to submit a letter of recommendation, then read through this article to learn about its proper structure and get some insider tips on effective letters of recommendation.

The structure of a letter of recommendation

Letters of recommendation should be written in a certain tone as an important part of your college application. Also, the letter should be addressed to a specific person in order to add a tone of formality and sincerity. The person named will most usually be the program admission head.

Make sure that the letter is addressed to the proper person. You can call the admissions committee to get the full name of the person and its position. Be particular with the spelling of the name and include a date when the letter is written. Next, open the letter with a formal greeting such as “Dear Mr. Doe.” If you do not know the name of the recipient, then a “Dear Sir or Madame” would be more appropriate. Avoid the greeting “To Whom it May Concern:” as this seems lacks some personal touch and sense of professionalism.

The letter should open with the recommendation for the applicant. The opening statement should already include the applicant’s name and chosen program. The person writing the letter should state briefly how he or she has come to know the applicant. For example, “I would highly recommend that you accept Mr. John Doe as a student in your Engineering program.”

After the introductory statements, the letter should now focus on the characteristics and qualities of the applicant. These statements must be specific in order to give the reader a clear view on how exactly did the applicant display such positive characteristics. For example, “Mr. Doe has displayed strong leadership skills all throughout his stay in West High School. He has been the team captain of the basketball team for two years and has always been chosen by his peers to lead them in group discussions.”

A closing statement would follow, carefully reiterating that the candidate is highly recommended. It would also be proper to state the writer’s willingness to be contacted in case the reader has some additional questions regarding the applicant. It would, of course, be necessary to include the means and methods in which the reader would be able to contact the writer.

The letter should have a business closing, and the writer should sign over his or her printed name.

What is the purpose of a letter of recommendation?

A letter or recommendation gives the reader a deeper insight into the applicant, aside from transcripts, certificates, and awards. It lists the core competencies of the applicant and the qualities and characteristics that make him or her unique. It serves as an evaluation of an individual in the context of a particular task or tasks. The letter should be written on a positive note but must show honesty in the evaluation of the individual. The professional writer may include negative aspects of the individual, but the letter should not dwell on these and still focus on the strengths.

For such purposes, letters of recommendation are usually written by someone who is familiar with the student’s academic performance and the student’s plans for education and career path. Most students find a teacher, community leader, or employers to write a recommendation letter for them.

Some tips on getting an effective letter of recommendation

  1. Know what the letter is for.

You may be applying for an undergraduate degree, a masters degree, or a doctorate degree. Aside from such, you may also want to apply for a scholarship program, financial aid, or an honors program. Although most schools have a separate application process for scholarships or financial aid, it would be beneficial for your letter of recommendation to include certain hints that you are the perfect candidate for a scholarship program.

  1. List the characteristics that need to be emphasized.

Learn whether or not the university you are applying to requires certain aspects of students. For example, does the university focus more on the academic achievements of the student or does the school give more emphasis on the extra-curricular activities that the student has engaged in. If the school refers to the applicant’s academic records, then the letter of recommendation should be able to reflect how you are as a student, your academic achievements, and how you are able to face challenges in such area. Also, the contents of the letter must be able to reflect the contents of your transcript of records. On the other hand, if the school focuses more on co-curricular activities, then the contents of the letter should be able to address your capacity as a leader. Significant activities that you have been part of should be mentioned in the letter as well. Based on these criteria, learn which qualities are best needed or are given emphasis by the school.

  1. Choose who to ask the letter from.

This is an important step since the contents of the letter will be scrutinized by the admissions committee. The person you should choose to write the letter should be able to discuss things about you that are unique. Take into consideration the school and program that you are applying for and the qualities that the school is looking for. This should give you an idea of who to choose to write a letter of recommendation. For example, if the school focuses on leadership qualities, then your school organization adviser or team coach will be the better choice to ask a letter from. If the school wants to learn more about how you are as a worker, then your employer would be the ideal choice. Whoever you choose, make sure that this person can provide an unbiased, truthful account of your best qualities.

  1. Talk to the person you have chosen.

Once you have chosen the one to write a letter of recommendation for you, talk to him or her. Ask if he or she has time to sit with you and discuss your goals and objectives and what the school you are applying to is looking for. Tell the writer that you want him or her to be honest in writing the letter, and he or she does not have to fill the letter with praises. Make sure to tell the writer about the school and the program that you have chosen. It would also be best to provide a copy of your resume, for his or her reference.

  1. Send in the letter and other requirements early.

It is important for you to be able to complete all your requirements and to send them before the deadline. Make a checklist and make sure that you have completed the requirements. This shows that you are organized and have value for time. Sending in requirements as early as possible will leave a good impression with the admissions committee. If the letter will be sent by the writer him/herself, give the writer a deadline for submitting the letter to the school.

A letter of recommendation is an important requirement when applying to the University of your choice. Needless to say, it is important for you to take steps in order to get the best possible letter of recommendation. Learn about the school and the program you are applying for. Then, look for the best possible person who is able to write about your achievements that are relevant to your application. Make sure to talk to the person and properly ask permission from him or her to be the one to make the recommendation for you. Finally, make sure that you will be able to submit all your requirements on time.

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A post by barbaraell (1 Posts)

barbaraell is author at LeraBlog. The author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views and opinions of LeraBlog staff.
Barbara Elliott has served in a number of leadership positions throughout his career including College Dean at three Universities and Tenured University Professor. Barbara is a frequent national and international presenter and author.


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