10 Rules For Writing Reference Letters

In the sequel to the last blog post, we discussed the different types of reference letters available and also explained in detail what a reference letter means. A reference letter has been described as a letter in which a writer endorses the applicant’s or candidate’s qualifications and describes them as ideal for the position for which they are vying.

While the distinction between a reference and recommendation letter slightly overlaps, it is nevertheless necessary to do a step-by-step rundown on how to write a reference letter. 

We have had students reach out to inquire from us on how to write reference letters as their referees requested for samples

Understand that your reference letter is one of the most important documents in your application. Gradschool Match has described your reference letters as a piece of the puzzle that helps to create a full picture of who you are as a candidate, a student, and a person.

This is one of the reasons why it is highly suggested that the person giving you a piece of reference letter be a well-known lecturer or employer because their input can either make or mar your application.

In this blog, we will be doing a step by step process on what makes a reference letter stand out

1. The language 

The first rule of the game is to keep the language as simple as possible while bearing in mind that the admissions committee or the panel has thousands of reference letters to look at. You should avoid jargons and be as simple and specific as much as you can.

2. Have a prior rapport with your referee

One of the mistakes students make is that they randomly reach out to lecturers with whom they have no prior relationship when an opportunity comes up. The best reference letters are written by those who can testify to your character, accomplishments, and skills—basically, those who know you on a personal level. Understand that the reference letter you give can either make or mar your application. Give it your best. 

We cannot deny that there are students who didn’t have any rapport or connections with their lecturers while they were at the institution. In view of this, reach out to the lecturer by sending in a well-detailed CV that will give the lecturer a glimpse of your professional life and will also serve as a guide. 

3. Established Relationship

An effective letter of reference first creates a relationship between the recommender and candidate while highlighting the candidate’s strengths with specific examples. Ranking the candidate might also be useful if the recommender has experience working with numerous other people in the same role.

4. Keep it relevant 

No one is interested in knowing your history or your family background; save that for your statement of purpose. Be straight to the point, and all you need to focus on are your skills, strengths, and abilities. Keep it relevant and focus on the skills and qualities that are relevant to the position, course, or program the person is applying for.

5. Highlight and focus on your strengths. 

Be objective about your choice of words and focus on the program being applied for; no two programs are the same, just as no two reference letters are the same. Be objective

6. Inform your referees before putting down their email addresses

Often times, students have been found to randomly put down the names of their lecturers while filling out reference letter forms without informing the referee prior. A lot of applications have been rejected as a result of this. In order to avoid that, send your reminders on time and make sure to follow up on them at every chance you get.

7. Do not write a reference yourself 

In the last blog, one of the people we considered not being able to write a reference letter was  the applicant. Bear in mind that the panel members have been in the game for donkey years, and they know when something is off. You wouldn’t want to risk your application being discarded as a result of your unfaithfulness.

8. Follow up 

If you have reached out to a former lecturer, professor, or employee for a reference, try as much as possible to follow up with them. This is because humans are busy and might forget about your application. Send them warm reminders from time to time.

9. Avoid negative comments or criticisms.

If you’re being asked to write a reference letter, avoid any form of criticism or snide remarks. On the other hand, rather than choosing to criticise the applicant in the reference letter you’re writing, simply decline to write it. The reference letter is not a place to vent your anger.

10. Consistency

Make sure the tone of the letter speaks consistency—consistency to not just what is included in the reference letter but consistency to the other application documents.

In conclusion, as earlier pointed out, understand that your reference letter is as important as every other document you have submitted; don’t be casual about it and,  Exert your energy toward getting the best reference letter from your referees. 

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