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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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Recommendation Letter: Need Examples

I'm really stressing out about recommendations. I've found some teachers who'd speak on my behalf but I still want to provide them with a good reference. Does anyone have any samples of strong recommendation letters? What do the best ones include?

7 days ago

While it's great to help your teachers understand what points you'd like them to emphasize, keep in mind each recommender will and should have their unique voice and perspective. That said, there are a few key elements that most strong recommendation letters have in common:

1. Detailed Anecdotes: Good letters often delve into specific instances where you demonstrated key qualities. Perhaps you took a leadership role in a class group project or showed exceptional creativity in an assignment. These tangible examples are more compelling and memorable than vague or general praise.

2. Demonstrated Skills or Abilities: The letter should illuminate your key attributes like leadership, teamwork, creativity, dedication, resilience, etc. It should reflect how you applied these skills inside or outside of the classroom.

3. Comparative Evaluations: It's powerful when teachers make direct comparisons between you and other students they've taught in their careers. For instance, a teacher might state something like: "Among the countless students I've taught over the past decade, Alex stands out as one of the most nuanced thinkers and dedicated scholars."

4. Alignment with Your Application's Story: The letter should not just reiterate what's in your application but provide a new perspective or amplify the message you're sending about who you are and what you bring to the table.

The ultimate goal is for these letters to provide evidence-backed stories painting a picture of your character, work ethic, and potential.

I also want to add that a good letter should convey your passion for learning and your intellectual curiosity. For example, it can mention instances where you went the extra mile to learn something new or understand a complex concept. This indicated to colleges that you'll be someone who'll actively contribute in their classes.

Your letters of recommendation should also give a sense of your engagement with others. How do you interact in class discussions? How do you collaborate in group projects or labs? Are you respectful and thoughtful in dealing with differing points of view? These aspects paint a picture of you as part of a college community.

One more thing to emphasize is your potential for growth. Remember, colleges are looking for students who will evolve and contribute in significant ways during their college years and beyond. Therefore, a letter that touches on how you've grown over your time in high school, along with your potential for continued growth, can be very compelling.

For example, a teacher might discuss how you matured from a timid freshman to a confident senior who leads class discussions. Or, they could point to a particular challenge you faced and how you learned and grew from that experience.

Remember, each letter is a piece of your overall narrative. Ensure they are all consistently painting a picture of who you are and who you aspire to become.

7 days ago

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