Letter Writer Account & Guidelines

Letter Writer Account on Interfolio

Interfolio offers a secure and efficient way to submit and manage your recommendations for students and colleagues. Submit and manage your letters for FREE, so you can update your letters at any time. You can upload digital files or mail paper copies directly to Interfolio, where they will be scanned and placed in your account. Letters are protected by FERPA standards and never viewable by those you recommend. Create a FREE letter writer account or log into your existing account on Interfolio. If you have questions, there is a "Help for Letter Writers" page to help you get started.

Letter Writing Guidelines

In addition to the following information, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has two interesting articles for employers and university staff/faculty on "Tips for Providing References" and "Legal Q&A: Writing a Reference Letter".

Decision to Write Reference Letters

  • Importance of Letters:  Many admissions and hiring committees depend heavily on recommendations to gain insight into applicants’ personal strengths and weaknesses.
  • Be Specific:  If you think that you do not know a student well enough to write a recommendation or if you do not have the time, it is better to inform him/her beforehand. To write a generic letter or state that a student is average may be the “kiss of death” for an applicant.
  • Include Weaknesses: Although this point is not meant to discourage negative comments, you may decide to discuss with the student if you choose to include any qualifiers or weaknesses.

Letter Format

  • We suggest one page, using 12 point font on official letterhead.
  • Letters should be dated, include your full name and title, and original signature.
  • Graduate school and health professions letters may be addressed to the "Admissions Committee", and employment letters can be addressed to the "Hiring Committee" or the "Human Resources Supervisor".
  • Bold the student’s name in the text of the letter. For medical school applicants, type the candidate’s name and, if you know it, AMCAS Identification in the upper right hand corner of each page.

What to Include

  • Applicant's Relationship to Evaluator: Evaluator’s identification (title, position, institution); how long and in what capacity you have known the applicant.
  • Intellectual Characteristics: Applicant’s ability to learn and retain information; approach and attitude toward coursework, research, or activities; evidence of analytical and independent thinking;  intellectual curiosity/creativity; consistency of performance; ability relative to other students.
  • Communication Skills: Ability to organize and articulate thoughts, both in written and oral expression.
  • Personal Attributes: Evidence of motivation, persistence, and dedication; applicant’s ability to cooperate and get along with other students and individuals; evidence of other positive attributes: maturity, flexibility, honesty, enthusiasm, reliability, sincerity, leadership, etc.
  • Applicant's Background: Any unusual aspects of the applicant’s background that might contribute to or hinder academic work; participation in college extracurricular activities; knowledge of the rigor of students’ course load.

Adapted from Stanford University Advisory Center and UCSB Health Professions Office.