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Tips for Letters of Recommendation

Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013

We understand that writing letters of recommendations can take a HUGE amount of your time. As readers, we appreciate the care that you devote to this process. With this in mind, we wanted to share a few thoughts that may help you make this task more manageable and productive. The good news is that one page is plenty.


We rely on you to set the stage for the applicant - providing the backlight for the overall high school experience. (Alternatively, we look to the Teacher Evaluations put a spotlight on specific examples of performance and growth.) As a counselor, you are in a unique position to reinforce and provide a context for the application. We hope to gain your insights regarding the applicant’s story, curriculum choices and transcript. In the process, we hope that you’ll highlight trends and interpret the transcript if there are specific circumstances that impacted performance. We like to understand transitions from other schools, unique program opportunities, and the ability of the applicant to overcome adversity. The heart of a recommendation is the candor and examples that you share. We are looking for quotes that capture the essence of individual that we can share with the admission committee. Ultimately, we hope to see a clear recommendation that differentiates the student beyond the transcript.

Some themes that you might want to highlight include:

Core Strengths

Intellectual Abilities

Leadership Skills

Communication Skills

Character & Integrity,

Initiative & Creativity

Volunteering & Social Impact


Thanks to Martin Walsh (SCU ‘87) at the Harker School for providing the framework for these suggestions.

Tags: Fall 2013, Letter of Recommendation