How to Write an Outstanding PhD Recommendation Letter

Writing a PhD recommendation letter for prospective students can be difficult if you’re not familiar with the process or even what to say in your letter. Luckily, there are many things you can do to ensure that your letter comes across as strong and effective.

Here are seven tips to help you write an outstanding PhD recommendation letter, so that the PhD committee takes notice of your candidate and offers him or her a position at the university of their choice.

Jump over to: How to apply for a PhD program here


  1. Clearly state what position/program you are writing a PhD recommendation letter for, along with their name and contact information.
  2. Express your relationship with them (i.e., whether they are your student, colleague, or friend).
  3. Briefly describe why you know them (i.e., how long have you known them? In what capacity?
  4. Explain why you feel qualified to write a strong PhD recommendation letter for them.
  5. Provide specific examples that demonstrate what makes them stand out from other candidates.
  6. End on a high note by emphasizing all of their best qualities!

phd recommendation letter

Start with your name.

First and foremost, include your name at the top of your PhD recommendation letter. Your name should appear on every page of the letter. Make sure it is centered and appears in bold letters that are large enough to read easily from a distance.

Introduce the candidate

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Explain why you know this person

It’s important to explain why you know someone when recommending them or writing a PhD recommendation letter for them. It will provide insight into your relationship with that person, and demonstrate that you understand who they are and what is important to them.

Describe their skills

The number one thing to remember about writing a PhD recommendation letter or letter of recommendation is that you are writing about someone, not yourself. Your first step is to think about your friend’s skills and abilities as objectively as possible.

  • What are they particularly good at?
  • What do they do well?
  • What makes them unique?

Take notes on these things before you begin drafting your letter. These notes will come in handy when it comes time to write.

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Discuss any professional experiences together

If you’ve worked together, make sure to discuss your professional experience with them. If they were a work supervisor, discuss how their management style differed from other supervisors you’ve had in past jobs.

Write about their academic abilities

Success in a master’s program is rarely based on undergraduate grades. Instead, demonstrate how they demonstrated mastery of their discipline through their coursework, either as a teaching assistant or in independent study with faculty in the PhD recommendation letter. Remember that you’re writing about them, not you.

Read also: Countries with the Highest Stipends in the World

phd recommendation letter

Provide examples of past work/accomplishments/experiences.

List examples of your past accomplishments and experiences that speak to your abilities, skills, and potential as a PhD student.

The PhD recommendation letter should also include information about why you are interested in pursuing doctoral studies. This is not just another academic paper; it’s meant to be more personal than that.

You want your recommenders to show their enthusiasm for you and what they think you can bring to their program.

Read also: How to Write an Effective Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume

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