the good the bad and the boring
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The Good, The Bad, and the Boring:. How to write an effective recommendation for (almost) any student. The Basics. Introduction Academic context Context of the student in the community Conclusion and endorsement. Information gathering. Ask for a student resume

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the good the bad and the boring

The Good, The Bad, and the Boring:

How to write an effective recommendation for (almost) any student

the basics
The Basics
  • Introduction
  • Academic context
  • Context of the student in the community
  • Conclusion and endorsement
information gathering
Information gathering
  • Ask for a student resume
  • Have the student answer specific questions or a questionnaire
  • Collect comments from progress reports or teachers
  • Ask for parental feedback or a questionnaire
  • Interview student
the good
The Good
  • Often the easiest letter to write because the student is so outstanding, the letter practically writes itself.
  • Explain the background or situation and why you think s/he is outstanding. Your student doesn’t have to be one of the best in the nation to be one of the best in your community.
  • Give specific details and examples. Help the college understand school and community context and why this particular student stands out.
  • Explain achievements if necessary, give details and descriptions.
  • Avoid hyperbole, even for the most extraordinary. It will only weaken your credibility and thus your ability to advocate.
the bad
The Bad
  • Often the trickiest letters to write
  • Know your administration – would a letter with negative feedback cause you future problems?
  • Create a “non-recommendation” with faint or no praise, simply facts
  • Make it shorter than your usual letter
  • Ask the college to call you to speak further about the student, and leave your concerns for that call
  • Be tactful, but honest. Protect your ethics, and the relationship with the college.
the boring
The Boring
  • AKA: The kid who gives you no feedback, the enigma, or the kid you have never seen before
  • Fall back on the data you have without the student’s input
  • Focus on the positive information you do have, even if it is only one point
  • Avoid creative writing
  • Your letter can still read as very supportive even if the student is not a star
  • Rely on the basics mentioned earlier
tips and tricks
Tips and Tricks
  • Make the format of the letter interesting to read. For example, title the paragraphs for the reader, or use alliteration, (Sarah as a “scholar, senator, student of service.”)
  • Use quotes, lines from poetry or songs. (Be careful not to be corny or sappy.)
  • Think about how your community views the student, and if any relevant image comes to mind, make an analogy to paint a picture of the student. "Timmy is the Bill Gates/Tim Tebow/Conan O\'Brien of our high school." Explain why. It can make the student stand out vividly in an admission officer\'s mind. 
  • Be creative, passionate, or persuasive.
do s and don ts
Do’s and Don’ts
  • Be clear in your description
  • Be concise
  • Don\'t give laundry list of activities
  • Don\'t use strings of adjectives
  • Don\'t include information about you
  • “Show” don’t “tell” - use good descriptive writing
  • Don’t ever “recycle” a letter, specific paragraphs, or even catchy phrases or common adjectives
  • Be honest
  • Simply stated, write what you would like to read