Below is a letter of recommendation for which I am extremely grateful. Dr. Carol Nash was my history teacher for two years in high school (including AP History), and boy could she write a letter of recommendation!
What do you see works in this letter? What would you improve? Here it is:
Dear Admissions Committee:
When Brenda Bernstein tackles a question, the result is a definitive work! Brenda was in my tenth grade Global Studies class and, on my recommendation, my eleventh year 1985-86 Advanced Placement American History-Economics class. She ranks among my most outstanding students. It may be premature to speak of a definitive work; nevertheless, I am certain that she will be working on the frontiers of knowledge.
The students in the global Studies class were expected to find four articles on the French Revolution in different types of sources. Brenda’s impressive search bore all the marks of an outstanding scholar. For example, she located a particularly unusual primary source. The result was an outstanding paper which represented a truly significant contribution to my understanding of the women’s rights movement in the French Revolution. Brenda also most effectively communicated the information to the class during the class discussions. For her paper on the socio-economic basis of Hitler’s rise to power, Brenda drew her material from sophisticated journals. In the AP class, Brenda did a really exhaustive paper on Quaker anti-slavery sentiment. The paper was full of solid information and creative and intelligent comments. For example, she suggested that the Quaker community served as a support network for individuals who deviated from the rest of the establishment. Brenda wrote all her papers with style and imagination, and she demonstrated complete mastery of the basic research techniques.
Brenda’s insightful treatment of the material was evident on her tests. For example, analyzing how the new American nation inherited England’s problems, she observed that the decentralization of the Articles of Confederation created many problems just as the want of decentralization had done for England before. This link shows her ability to compare, contrast, and synthesize. The rest of the essay demonstrated her mastery of the historical literature. Just as she wrote integrated and creative papers, Brenda wrote an excellent document based essay drawing comfortably from the documents and her outside information. Brenda’s analytic essays comparing historians like G. Wood and C. Kenyon were exactly on target. When she was asked to find evidence to support historical interpretations, Brenda demonstrated her superior capacity to interpret data.
Brenda is a petite young lady with an enormous mind and unusual intellectual maturity. This is matched by her rich personality.
Carol S. Nash, Ph. D.