Tackling Letters of Recommendation – Advisor Edition

As an advisor for Alpha Delta Pi, you cannot seem to escape the letter of recommendation. Whether it is the Alpha Delta Pi Foundation Scholarship, grad school applications, or other nominations and awards, your women come to you first. Although you may find it to be a daunting task, we want to make it as easy as possible this year for you.

When an applicant fills out her scholarship application, she is asked to enter information for her letters of reference. You will be sent a unique link for each applicant. Should you be so lucky to write multiple letters, you will receive one email per application. Please answer one simple question, upload your letter, and click submit. Letters must be submitted by March 1, 2016 for the student’s application to be eligible for awards. It will look like this:

Scholarship Rec Letter Help

But what do I write about? Can I use the same letter for everyone? How thorough do I have to be? Luckily, the chair of the Scholarship Committee, Melanie, is here to provide her insight on what makes a stand-out letter.

Successful applications for Alpha Delta Pi Foundation Scholarships contain both thorough information from the applicant on her form and solid, insightful letters of reference or recommendation.  These next few paragraphs are designed to assist those who are composing those letters.

First, remember the letters are intended to supplement the form and give the readers of the application additional information from an outside, objective source.  Repeating titles of offices or the most obvious lists are not helpful.  Details which are not readily apparent, are.  For example, if an EVP has done a superlative job of empowering her fellow officers to complete their required reports in a manner her predecessors did not, but which set the chapter on a course for the Golden Lion, give specific examples of the incentives or processes she used.  This gives the readers new information which applicants are not asked to supply.

Some scholarships are tied to merit only; others consider financial need.  Write about any details of the applicant’s personality and recent financial needs, as well as academic achievements which would give the readers reason to consider the applicant most worthy.  An applicant who enters college and becomes an Alpha Delta Pi before encountering some unexpected financial crisis needs to be presented to the reader with details that indicate both merit and need.  Often there are many candidates who are equally meritorious and with equal levels of financial need, so the readers need references to provide some information which would assist them in ranking.

Finally, it is extremely important for writers to avoid creating a form letter which appears generic and nonspecific.   Use as many specific examples as possible to illustrate your descriptions.  If an advisor does not know the applicant well enough to write a sound letter, it does not reflect well on the applicant or the chapter.  Descriptions tied to concrete examples of character or personality give the readers a three-dimensional picture.  Tie a short story as an example for descriptors like resilient, resourceful, motivated, cooperative or other group dynamics, personal gifts, talents and attributes.  Adjectives alone are not helpful.

All of these kinds of references require both time to compose and thoughtful recollection of details.  Sometimes it also requires an advisor to seek outside sources who know the applicant better.  Especially when an applicant has not been in the chapter for long or managed to become well-known, the writer may need to ask others for help in evaluating.  Readers respect this extra effort and it helps the applicant to be set apart or above an equally qualified form without the personal touch.  When, we live for each other through such a process of writing excellent letters of recommendation, we truly live our motto.

If you have any questions, please email foundation@alphadeltapi.com. And remember to get those letters in by March 1st.

 

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2 Comments

  1. This is good feedback. I probably have written more than 50 letters of recommendation for sisters for all sorts of things. You definitely need to include an example that illustrates the skills or attributes you are describing the person as having. Otherwise, the letter reads like a form letter where you don’t know the person you are writing about. If the chapter finds out you are good at this, you will be asked to write them more often. I actually loved being asked when I advised. It truly is an honor to be able to advocate for a sister.

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