Sample Graduate School Recommendation Letters

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Obtaining letters of recommendation for graduate school is just part of the application process, but those letters are a crucial component. Students often feel that they have no control over their content and they often wonder who to askRequesting a recommendation letter is daunting, but most students don't consider the challenge that professors and others face in writing letters of recommendation.

Submitting recommendation letters is just part of the application process, of course. If you're applying for graduate school, you'll also need to include your  standardized test scores, admissions essays and transcripts. But test scores and transcripts can be obtained with a phone call or two, while essays don't require asking others for help as letters of reference do.

So what does it take to write a solid letter of recommendation? A good, helpful letter of recommendation discusses the student in detail and provides evidence to support those statements. Unfortunately, there are many ways to write a bad recommendation. Letter writers (and students) may find these sample letters of recommendation helpful:

Sample Grad School Recommendation Letter from a Professor

No one can speak better to a student's academic abilities than a former professor or instructor. But a good letter of recommendation goes beyond classroom grades.

The best referrals offer detailed examples of how a student has grown as an individual and provide insight into how he or she stands out from their peers. The letter writer in this example clearly knows his student and offers ample evidence of her abilities.

An Effective Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School

A well-written letter of recommendation should also be relevant to the program that the student is applying for.

For example, if you're applying for an online graduate program and you've had success in previous distance-learning courses, you might ask that professor for a referral. In this example, the letter writer draws clear connections between the student's past success and future prospects.

A Poor Recommendation Letter

Good letters of recommendation, as discussed above, are written by people who know and have a vested interest in a student's success. They offer detailed and relevant examples that demonstrate why a student would be a good fit for a graduate program. Bad letters of recommendation, on the other hand, are vague and indifferent. In this example, it's clear that the letter writer has little interest or knowledge of a student.

Sample Recommendation Letter from an Employer

Employers can also be a good source of recommendation letters, especially if several years have passed since the applicant was last in school. As with a close professor, a trusted employer can speak to an applicant's abilities and provide concrete examples of their on-the-job performance and how that prepares them for grad school. Just as important, a good letter also leaves out some information, such as an employee's shortcomings or personal info that isn't relevant.

Each student is different. Each application is different. There is no universal letter of recommendation. Every situation is different and certainly, you will have to write different letters for each applicant.