Letter of recommendation for admission to a foreign university

Foreign universities require letters of recommendation from professors or future employers to enroll international students. Typically, universities require 2-3 letters of recommendation in English.

Recommendations can play an important role during the admissions campaign: they help schools get an idea of your professional and personal qualities — so it is important to approach this process carefully.

Who can write a letter of recommendation

University and school teachers

Teachers who know you well and can attest to your academic ability and dedication to your studies are often excellent candidates for writing letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are best obtained from faculty members who specialize in your chosen field of study.

The purpose of a faculty recommendation letter is to provide a detailed and honest characterization of the applicant. 

Note that letters of recommendation from principals are not appropriate because they do not work directly with students. It is the teacher’s personal work and position that is important.


If you have worked or served in a professional organization, or have been involved in a major project, supervisors or mentors can provide information about your work skills and personal qualities.
If you have publications or scientific articles, your supervisor can write a letter of recommendation.


A student goes to university with the goal of becoming a professional in a particular field. If there is a contract that you will be employed by an organization or company after you graduate, the employer can write a recommendation as to why they chose you and what guarantees they have that you will work for them.

What the letter should be like

A letter of recommendation shouldn’t be more than two pages long, but it shouldn’t be a couple paragraphs long either.

A letter of recommendation should be written in a factual, unemotional style. The letter should be free from clerical language and written in a neutral style. If the letter highlights the student’s professional or academic achievements, there should be no flattery or exaggeration of the student’s abilities. It is important not to overemphasize skills.

It is common for the student to write the letter of recommendation and for the instructor to simply sign it. Under no circumstances should such letters be submitted, as they do not reflect the student’s objective qualities.

The letter focuses on the student’s characteristics that can help learning. This should not include academic performance, there are diplomas and certificates for that.


Format of the letter of recommendation

There is no generally accepted standard for letters of recommendation, but they should have a clear structure.

Header and contact information

The top of the letter includes the student’s contact information (name, address, phone number, email address) and the contact information for the person who wrote the recommendation.


At the beginning of the letter, the author states who they are and about whom they are writing the recommendation. The author should briefly describe how he or she is related to the student and how long he or she has known the student.


This is a description of the personal qualities and qualifications of the student being recommended. This can include academic, professional, or athletic achievements, what publications and scientific articles are available, important diplomas, and certificates of participation in international competitions or programs.

The author may describe the student’s talents and where they lie. Do not use flattering language; instead, use words of affirmation that speak to the student’s high qualities.

The letter can also describe what motivates the student, what they aspire to, and what their goals are when they graduate.


The summary emphasizes the importance of the recommended person and expresses confidence in their future success. The author confirms that it is important for this student to be accepted into the program of study.


Signature, full name, and title and place of employment (if applicable) at the bottom.

Here is what the best letter of recommendation looks like

Detailed and specific

Provides specific examples and situations that demonstrate the qualities and abilities of the recommended person.

Positive and objective

The letter should be positive, yet objective and as honest as possible.

Unique and personalized

The letter should be unique and written specifically for the student’s chosen university. Avoid formulaic statements and standardized phrases.