Most applications for a Bachelor degree at US universities and for US scholarships request 2-3 reference letters. Usually, at least two are from teaching staff - teachers or college counsellors have taught you in the last 1-2 years - who know you in a learning environment. The third may be another teacher or someone who knows you from extracurricular activities or internships. The guiding principle should be who knows you best, is most likely to write a convincing and enthusiastic reference in English, and which combination of referees can cover different parts of your profile - e.g. using different subject teachers to stress your abilities in different academic areas, or choosing a supervisor in extracurricular activities (e.g. debating) who can stress your abilities and interpersonal qualities in that context.
Referees should present you enthusiastically and positively, stressing not only your academic and scholarly abilities and achievements, but also your personal traits, extracurricular and social involvement and explain any special circumstances you have dealt with - to show how you have excelled in spite of them, to explain why perhaps they may have affected your grades, or simply to illustrate interesting sides of your personality and special experiences. The aim is to demonstrate that you would be succeed academically, be interesting to teach and could contribute positively to campus life.
We recommend giving referees some information to help them better understand your motivation as well as what is expected of the reference letter, especially if your teachers are less experienced with writing reference letters for US Bachelor degrees. Specifically, we recommend:
In terms of content, the reference letters should:
For more concrete tips on how to write the reference to fit your chosen universities and your profile, for help contacting referees to set expectations and to review references, please contact our tutors.