The Dreaded Recommendation Letter: A Guide

The recommendation letter. We all hate them. We’ve all been there.

It’s a growing trend among study abroad programs in the United States to require a letter of recommendation along with your application. The letter can be from a professor or an employer. As a general rule of thumb, it is a good idea to start thinking about your recommendation letter early in the study abroad process.

There are some obvious aspects of having a strong recommendation letter: it should be written on letterhead, a maximum of one page long, and in a “normal” font (save your Comic Sans for another day).

However, there are some unique characteristics to a study abroad recommendation letter:

  • Make sure to have a long talk with your letter-writer and explain to them the gist of what you want to do. Where do you want to go? What type of program is it? This will help them to create a unique letter for your program.
  • Don’t be afraid to bring a copy of your resume to meet with your writer! This is especially true if they only know one aspect of your life (a former boss), or if you participate in extracurricular activities.
  • If there are specific goals you would like to accomplish on the program, talk about them! Share how you believe the program will help you to achieve your goals–whether it’s to learn a new language or complete an internship.
  • This bears repeating, but be sure to ask early! Personally, I would recommend asking 3-4 weeks before the application is due.
A sample format for a fairly basic recommendation letter, found via

A sample format for a fairly basic recommendation letter, found via


2 thoughts on “The Dreaded Recommendation Letter: A Guide

  1. Great points for getting a letter of recommendation. Biggest point you stressed to ask early and to communicate with the writer of the letter is huge. If they do not know enough about you to make it a great letter, it is your job to inform them of what they are able to write about to highlight your best qualities.


  2. This is a great post to consider. I always find it intimidating to ask for letters of rec. I knew it was important to communicate, but you make a great point of bringing along a resume since that person probably only sees one portion of your life. I’m definitely keeping this in mind!


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