Writing reference letters

I was just sitting down to write the first1 reference letter that I have ever written and realized that I have never read a reference letter and have little idea of what should go into one.  This particular letter is for a graduate student applying for a fellowship.  Short post, but any suggestions?

Maybe I should start tweeting.

1 This is actually the third reference letter I’ve written, but the first was to be read by a close friend in the math department and the second was to be read by me.

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5 thoughts on “Writing reference letters

  1. Mugizi

    My basic guideline: Be as positive as I can while still being truthful.

    i.e If I can’t honestly say the student was one of the best in the class then I’ll say he/she was one of the most hardworking, or asked the toughest questions, or had the most creative answers – whatever seems truthful.

    I usually ask them to draft the letter and give it to me to edit. It helps avoid procrastination and sometimes brings up information I didn’t know about.

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