How to Write a Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School
Indicate how long you have known the applicant and in what capacity.
Graduate schools are primarily interested in recommendations that come
from professors who know the applicant and his/her academic work as well
as from employers. They are primarily interested in faculty members'
summary estimates of the candidate's general promise as a graduate
student. The more the recommendation reflects real knowledge of the
applicant and his/her performance, the more useful the letter is to the
graduate school admissions committees and thus to the applicant. The
letter should address the following questions:
- Intellectual characteristics: How do you rate the applicant
in overall intelligence? How well does the applicant learn and retain
information? What is your assessment of the applicant's skill in
analysis and logic? What is the applicant's ability to deal with
complex or abstract matters? Does the applicant show evidence of
creativity? Has the applicant's academic record been affected by
special circumstances such as work, social or academic background?
- Knowledge of field of study: What is the applicant's depth
and breadth of knowledge in the field? Does he/she know how to use the
methods in the field of study or have the experience in research?
Where applicable, does the applicant have the requisite laboratory
- Ability to communicate: Is the applicant an effective
writer? Does the written work submitted demonstrate a mastery of the
convention of English? Is the written material clear, well-organized
and forceful? Is the applicant articulate in oral expression?
- Industry and self-discipline: To what extent is the
applicant persistent, efficient and motivated? Is the applicant able
to work independently? Is there any reason to doubt the applicant's
commitment to graduate study or diligence as a student?
- Personal effectiveness: Does the applicant possess the
qualities of maturity and personal adjustment requisite for graduate
study? Would you choose the applicant for graduate study under your
tutelage? Does the applicant enjoy the trust and respect of fellow
students and peers?
- Potential for graduate study: What is your prediction of
the applicant's probable performance in graduate school? Does he/she
have any specialized skill or studies in the field? Does the applicant
have an aptitude for the chosen field? How does this applicant rate
with other candidates who have been evaluated?