Letters of Reference: Sample Letters

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Sample 1:

Dear Sir/Madam:

RE: Stanley Student

John Franklin University

For a number of years I taught a part-time course at John Franklin University entitled lntroduction to the International Law of Human Rights - Political Science 410. This was a challenging course intended for second and upper year students during the course of which students were required to read, analyze and digest a large number of judicial decisions as well as participate in the classes/seminars. Evaluation was on the basis of a term test, a major paper and final examination.

I recall Stanley Student from the 1993 fall session as having been in regular attendance, always obviously prepared and an active and able participant in the class. He wrote an excellent paper for the course dealing with the complexities of the law of citizenship as it is influenced by the International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights.

Based on my experience of him in my course, I am of the opinion that he clearly has the ability and diligence to successfully complete a course of studies in law and would advocate his admission to the school.

Yours very truly,
Stephen H. Adjunct, LL.B.

Author's Comments: This is not a particularly helpful letter. I am left with the impression that the writer has neither the knowledge of, nor interest in, the applicant to do a good job. There is no enthusiasm in this letter. Compare this letter to the next two.

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Sample 2:

Members of the Admissions Committee:

Re: Stanley Student

Stanley Student has asked me to supply you with a letter of reference in support of his application for admission to your program. Stanley has been a student of mine in Labor Economics (fall 1993) and advanced econometrics (fall 1994). 1 have been teaching at John Franklin University since 1971 and before that as a doctoral student, I taught at the University of California for 4 years. I am one of 9 full professors in our department of 39.

Stanley Student would fit into the top 100 students I have taught, measured against approximately 12,000 students. He may not have all the theoretical courses as background that some of the other top 100 would have, but he has the logic, the maturity, the clarity, and the communication skills, all of which I view as extremely important in his planned career.

In my labor economics class, students participated in debate and in the advanced econometrics class, there were presentations. Stanley excelled in both. Without being loud or interruptive, Stanley was a ready and regular participant in class discussion and always added value to such discussions, a rare occurrence indeed. His writing skills are similarly strong.

Stanley Student participated as a representative of the class and the University at the Foundation For Economic Education and was selected there to attend a session on investment and free market economics. He readily shared what he had learned when he returned to campus. Despite the age difference (6 to 8 years), I found Stanley to be held in high regard by his peers and indeed there was close cooperation instead of a coldness often accorded excellent students.

Economics is extremely demanding and I am not noted as an easy grader. Stanley topped both classes that I taught. Economics also has a reputation for forcing students to use logic, the same logic which is a necessary characteristic of "excellent" lawyers.

I am aware of and share Stanley Students ethical concerns. I believe he would be a highly professional individual, both as a student and as a member of the bar.

It has been a pleasure to write for Stanley Student. I hope you take account of the demands of the earliest period of his enrollment (carrying a full-term lob and many related activities) and look at his full-time marks as being more representative of his ability. I cannot think of another reference to law school that I have written where I felt as strongly about the student's ability to complete law school. That may be seen by the A+ and A which I assigned him as first in both my classes.

Sincerely yours,
John M. Keynes, Ph.D. Professor of Economics

Author's Comments: This is a superb letter. The author demonstrates that he is well qualified, writes with enthusiasm and compares the applicant to other students. The author uses lots of very specific examples to provide independent evidence in support of his claims. In summary, this letter provides lots of detailed evidence that the admissions committee can use.

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Sample 3:

The Registrar
Faculty of Law
Justice Law School

Dear Sir:

I am writing a letter of reference for Sarah Student who is a student in my Russian literature course.

Ms. Student is an outstanding student. In the first term Ms. Student has received 'A" grades in all four written essays (two research essays and two test essays) and "A" grades in both oral reports. In these essays as well as in her oral reports, she has demonstrated superior analytical and communicative skills. I am impressed with her exceptional ability to identify the central thesis and to develop her argument with clarity and with well-chosen and well-documented examples.

The literature course which I am teaching is an intensive seminar with a heavy reading list of nineteenth century Russian literary texts in English translation. The texts in the course present complex moral, philosophical and social issues. This course is also very demanding and students must participate actively Sarah Student is always well prepared for class and participates enthusiastically in class discussions. In class discussions as in her written work, she identifies major issues and presents her arguments persuasively and lucidly.

Sarah Student also has excellent skills in interacting with other students in the seminar. Clearly her extensive experience in community work and human rights issues as well as her work in administration, management and education have been an asset and have provided her with valuable insight and skills in interacting with other people.

Ms. Student is one of the best students that I have ever taught. My qualifications include a Ph.D. in Comparative and Slavic Literature an(l twenty years of teaching experience.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Shelia Wisdom Associate Professor

Author's Comments: This is a superb letter. The author demonstrates that she is well qualified, writes with enthusiasm and compares the applicant to other students. The author uses lots of very specific examples to provide independent evidence in support of his claims. In summary, this letter provides lots of detailed evidence that the admissions committee can use.

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Sample 4:

To The Admissions Officer
Any Law School
Anytown, Canada

To The Admissions Committee:

Re: Stanley Student

Stanley Student has asked me to write as a referee as part of his application for law school. In my judgment, Stanley is educationally intellectually and emotionally well suited for the study of law. I am very pleased to write in his support. Frankly I know of nobody whom I could more enthusiastically recommend for the study of law. Allow me to elaborate.
My background is in law. I hold both U.S. and Canadian law degrees and am a member of the bar of the Province of Ontario and the states of Massachusetts and New York. In addition, I teach and work with a number of pre-law students. As a result, I have extensive and regular contact with "would be" law students. I first met Stanley in 1987 when he was a student in one of my courses. I have kept up with him since that time. For the last year Stanley has assisted me in instructing a course that I teach to prepare students for the Law School Admission Test. You can see from his transcripts and academic achievements that Stanley is a gifted scholar. In addition to his being a first rate scholar, he is a first rate teacher!
When Stanley approached me to write on his behalf, I asked him why he wanted to study law As you can see from his academic records Stanley is completing his Masters Degree in the philosophy of law His dissertation will discuss the rationing of health care from a sociological, ethical and philosophical point of view. My many conversations with him reveal that Stanley realizes that social, ethical and philosophical problems are intimately connected to legal problems. In addition to an independent interest in the study and practice of law, Stanley sees a law degree as a way of improving his work in the area of philosophy of law in general and his dissertation topic in particular. A law degree will equip him to consider constitutional and other legal issues relating to the right to health care.
I recognize that there are a finite number of spaces in your program. Hence, it is in your interest to ensure that students you accept will benefit from your program and that participants in the program will also benefit from other students. As well as being intelligent and an accomplished student, Stanley is intellectually suited to the study and practice of law From my many conversations with him I have learned that he has a fine mind for discerning and developing general principles and determining to what extent these principles apply to specific factual situations. Stanley is a natural" at legal reasoning and has an agile and inquiring mind. I expect that he will be a first rate legal scholar.
Stanley has the maturity and discipline that required to excel at law school. During his work with me as a teaching assistant, I have observed that he understands the value and necessity of hard, consistent and disciplined work. Furthermore, he puts his understanding into practice. To put it simply Stanley has the values and work ethic that are needed to excel at law school.
Finally, Stanley is generous with his time and talents. On numerous occasions, (have seen him assist both his peers and students. (In many cases going far beyond what one would reasonably expect.) Should Stanley attend your school, I have every reason to believe that he will enhance the lives of his colleagues. Certainly, he has been a positive influence in my life.
In closing, I repeat that I enthusiastically support Stanley's application to law school in general and the University of _________ in particular. His academic qualifications are evident from his transcripts. His values, ethics, character, effectiveness and belief in hard work make all those around him perform better!

Sincerely yours,
John Robertson, LL.B., ID.

Author's Comments: This is a cross between an academic and non-academic reference. It is in part an academic reference from a non-academic person. Applicants having difficulty getting a real academic reference should take note!

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Sample 5:

To The Admissions Officer
Any Law School
Anytown, Canada

To The Admissions Committee:

Re: Stanley Student

Please accept this as a letter in enthusiastic support of the application of Stanley Student to the faculty of law.
I have known Stanley's family for approximately 20 years. Stanley's older brother and I were roommates at University. At that time Stanley was approximately 3 years old. I am currently a Chartered Financial Analyst and have developed a financial planning company Beginning in 1990 I began the process of franchising the Financial Planning Offices.
Although I have been a friend of Stanley's brother since 1974 I did not meet Stanley until 1983. In 1989 he immigrated to Canada from Germany Since that time he has been employed in my business (full time in 1994 and part time prior to 1994). He is a likable young man who I also consider to he a personal friend.
The process of franchising my financial planning business has required the planning and marketing of seminars aimed at potential franchisees. Over the years Stanley has been involved in every aspect of this. He has designed promotional material, arranged for its printing, handled its distribution, been the contact person for those attending the seminars, and handled every other aspect of this business. This has always been a big job. But, what is most significant is that he accomplished these tasks with a minimum of direction. He always took the initiative to ensure that what needed to be done was done. During my 20 years in business I have worked with a number of students and young adults. To put it simply Stanley has been the best, most responsible, effective and trustworthy employee with whom I have had the pleasure of working. Although he is in his early 20s, he has the maturity and common sense of a person much older.
During 1994 Stanley worked with me on a full time basis. It was also the best growth year that I have had. The spectacular growth during 1994 was largely attributable to Stanley's work. During this time period, Stanley reorganized our whole marketing program. He recreated both our promotional material and its method of distribution. Stanley has a unique ability to put a "new spin" on old ideas and the ingenuity and ability to see a project through to completion. Many of his ideas are still being used by my company.
Stanley has demonstrated that he is a highly intelligent, competent, and effective person. But he is also a pleasure to be around. He interests range from soccer to piano to history to simply being around people. His experience growing up in Germany has given him a cross-cultural perspective that should serve him well in later years. In addition to his accomplishments, integrity and strengths of character, Stanley is a "nice guy"
I enthusiastically support his application to the faculty of law.

Yours truly
James R. Wealth Ill, CFA

Author's Comments: As you can see this is a letter from an employer. Notice that the letter includes more than a statement about the applicant as an employee.

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