Letters should be 1-2 pages in length, signed, and on letterhead.
What to include:
- How do you know the student and for how long?
- Compare student to others you have instructed. Provide an informal ranking (i.e. “top 15%”) without repeating redundant information such as their GPA. Specific quantified or qualitative evidence of their performance is encouraged.
- Include other examples of your impressions of the student outside of the classroom including conversations in office hours, campus activities, etc.
- Provide a distinctive candidate description including their unique characteristics. For example, if you state the student is innovative, how have you seen them demonstrate innovation?
- Explain why you believe the student is a good fit for the opportunity.
- Personalize the letter as much as possible. Make connections to what they are applying for.
- Emphasize what sets this student apart from others in the class and overall in your years of teaching.
What may hurt the applicant:
- Too much information about USC in general without focusing on the individual student.
- Including letter grades. If relevant, substantial information should be provided about classroom experiences.
- Highlighting what could be considered expected behaviors such as completing all classroom readings or maintaining good attendance.
- Abundant criticism. Be honest but cautious about criticism.
- Avoid general platitudes.
It is okay to reject a request for a letter if you do not believe you can include enough specifics about that particular student, especially if the letter is asking for evidence of non-academic characteristics that you have not directly observed. You should be able to provide a holistic view of the student in the letter.