Cover letters and CV

The best letter of recommendation format to follow

By Edvoy• Last updated: Jul 13, 2023
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A letter of recommendation is an essential and important component of the application process when students are looking to study abroad. As a teacher or professor, a student may come to you and ask that you write a letter of recommendation for them.

In this case, you’ll want to be prepared to tackle the task and ensure a successful outcome. Be glad you can review the best letter of recommendation format to follow here and make certain you do the best job you can at helping your student study abroad at the university or school of their choice.

Why letters of recommendation are vital & necessary

First, you should know the reasons why letters of recommendation are vital and necessary for any student applying to colleges and universities internationally. It’s a way to humanise the applicant instead of the school only being able to review test scores and their education performance. It’s a way for the college or university to discover more about what this person is like, what motivates them, and the type of student they are in the classroom.

The letter can outline the personal strengths that a student can bring to the community as well. You are essentially advocating on the student’s behalf instead of them doing so themselves as they would when writing an essay. You must be able to portray confidence in your student and highlight their best attributes and qualities that may not be included elsewhere in the application. Keep in mind this is a letter of recommendation and not a reference letter, which is somewhat similar but has key differences.

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The letter’s affect on the application process

Another important matter to address is how letters of recommendation affect the application process overall. These letters will notify the admissions committee more about how the student works and learns, how they interact with others, and how they tackle challenges. It’s a chance to give examples of how a student was able to overcome an obstacle and grow as a student. 

Colleges and universities are focusing on bringing students onboard who love learning and who are both diverse and dynamic, so these letters help paint the true picture and will let the committee know if it’s a good match. A letter of recommendation is required for academic purposes and to cover the qualifications, qualities, and abilities of the prospective student.

6 basic sections to include

The following list contains six primary sections to include in your letter:

  • Address and date
  • Relationship to the candidate
  • Quality of work
  • Individual characteristics
  • Letter summary
  • Signature

The best format of a letter of recommendation should be one that fits with the school or coursework that the student is applying for. Whenever you can, you should try to provide specific anecdotes and examples that illustrate your support.

Key points to touch on

The one-to-two-page letter of recommendation will generally follow the same format across the board. There are eight key points that you should include if you want to write the best letter of recommendation possible. They are as follows:

  • Use official college or institute letterhead
  • Include the title and address of where the letter is going
  • Put the student’s full name in bold
  • Add context about your position and how you know the applicant
  • Include some details about your relationship and how you know the student
  • Highlight specific accomplishments of the student that directly relate to the school program and courses
  • Review what aspects the school will be reviewing and make an evaluation of the student based on this information
  • Conclude with a statement of your support and enthusiasm and include contact information where they can reach you for questions and more details
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Best format to follow

Start with your greeting and keep it straightforward by addressing the letter using Dear Admission Board or Dear Admission Committee. Next, write the introductory paragraph which is a vital part of the letter. Within a few sentences, you must introduce yourself as an academic, touch on your relationship with the student, and communicate that you believe the student deserves a place at the college or university. Include your expertise to make the letter more credible. Also, clearly voice your support here.

As far as the body paragraphs go, you should make sure that you address the following:

  • Talk about the student’s academic performance in courses that are relevant
  • Reveal the student’s potential
  • Underscore the student’s enthusiasm for the field and program
  • Demonstrate and share the student’s positive traits

Always include stories and examples where you can and it makes sense. This will help better support your points. Include information about how they overcame particular struggles or obstacles and elaborate on the growth of your student over time. This is an opportunity and the right place to also include examples of the student’s experience in other areas such as sports, leadership roles, competition, or society and community participation.

Sum up the student’s strengths and best qualities in the conclusion of your letter. Highlight how both the institution and the student will benefit if they are accepted. Always include a professional sign-off at the very end of the letter of recommendation. Then close it altogether with ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Best Regards’ in addition to your name, professional title, and contact information. You want to make sure they know how to get in touch with you if they require more details and information or have questions.

Tips for writing a letter of recommendation

Write a good letter of recommendation by making it clear how you know the student right away and explain the reasons why you’re recommending them. Start the letter with an opening and professional salutation. You can use the department name and their title if you don’t know the person’s name. Come off strong with a first sentence that shows your excitement about recommending the student. Get on the same page with the student about their academic background and tailor the letter for the specific school and program. Take the time to look over the school’s website in detail to ensure you can connect the dots and make the letter relevant.

You must be able to communicate and show that you truly know the applicant as a person. Make sure the format you choose works well in the country in which they are applying and not just in your country. You can see some samples online to get a better idea of what will work. You may want to consider using a translator as well. Finally, always proofread your letters and have others view them for an additional opportunity to catch any mistakes before you send in the letter.

Watch the video about How to write Strong Recommendation Letter for University Application

Elements of a good letter of recommendation

Next, you should know what makes a good letter of recommendation when considering the best format and information to include. You must be able to ensure that the candidate stands out among the rest and is memorable. Highlight the student’s key characteristics and include specific examples of your observations.

Your skills and praises of why you’re an excellent student should be clear and backed up with stories. It’s important to not only shed light on the student’s skills but also on their character and disposition. Include powerful statements that make it clear you are advocating for them and that you believe in them. Take your time to craft a letter that’s eloquent and free of errors. It needs to be unique and immediately grab the attention of the admissions board.

Also Read: 3 Best Letter of Recommendation Samples

Mistakes to avoid

There are also some mistakes or errors that you should avoid committing at all costs when writing the best letter of recommendation for your student. Some of the most common blunders are as follows:

  • The information lacks relevance
  • No validation of the candidate
  • Repeating the resume
  • The letter is not individualised or original

Be sure to include all the necessary elements and not leave any out. You’ll want to have a greeting, introductory paragraph, body paragraphs, a closing, and finally the sign-off.


A letter of recommendation is a critical piece of the overall application process when a student is applying to study abroad. As the writer and signer of the letter, you want to make sure that you put forth your greatest effort to ensure it’s nothing less than perfect. These tips for the best letter of recommendation format to follow will put you on the right track to achieving this goal. 

Do your best and then let whatever happens unfold naturally and be proud knowing that you did your part and did it well. Be as detailed as possible with your examples and always proofread the letter multiple times for errors. Make the letter as candid and authentic as possible and confirm that you give insights about the student’s skills as well as their personality.

Here at Edvoy, we want to help make your job easier so you can always refer to our website and blog for additional tips and pieces of advice.

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