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Sample Letter of Reference for PhD Program

Letter of Recommendation for Ms. X
Department of Y, PhD Program


I first knew X in the spring of l986 when she was a member of my Freshman Seminar, '. . . .` In such small groups teacher and students come to know one another in a way that is seldom, if ever, possible in large lecture courses. In either forum something can be learned about a student's academic ability, but only in the former can one get a reliable measure of the student as a person. . . . Having kept in touch with X in the intervening years, I am confident in my knowledge of her.

To begin with, she is an excellent student, with a lively curiosity that makes her dissatisfied with superficial explanations. That curiosity frequently led our seminar down avenues and into areas that, otherwise, would have remained unexplored. . . .

One has only to speak to her to recognize her openness and eagerness. It is easy to mistake this for naiveté, an error I made when she first told me she had signed up to be an apprentice teacher in one of Boston's more notorious inner city high schools. . . . Throughout the term, often at great cost to her own peace of mind, and sometimes in explicit conflict with the regular teacher, she continued to insist on a high level of performance from her students. She not only survived the term but won the admiration and respect of students accustomed to being patronized by teachers content to believe that nothing much can be expected.

I would expect X to bring these same qualities of character to . . . . That is, an openness to new places, peoples, cultures and customs; a keen intelligence, with which to analyze and order her experience; irrepressible curiosity; and an unusual ability for dealing with people of all ages and conditions. Those qualities, combined with her toughness of character. . ., will enable her to understand and empathize with others while never losing touch with who she is.


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