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Writing and Submitting Letters of Reference

Faculty and Staff: Writing and Submitting Letters of Reference

Most study abroad programs require one or two academic letters of reference. Quite often these must be from a member of the faculty who has taught the student. Some programs may also require a letter from someone who has worked closely with the student and can write a character reference. Letters of reference are a critical part of the application process and the Off-Campus Study Office appreciates the time and effort required to write in detail. Our office recommends to all students that they inquire at least three to four weeks in advance about a recommender’s willingness to offer an evaluation/letter of support.

Quite often host universities and other study abroad programs want to know how long and in what capacity the recommender knows the student; details of the student’s academic performance; and personal strengths and/or weaknesses that affect the student’s academic performance.

Swarthmore programs and Direct Enrollment Programs
For some study abroad programs (i.e., Swarthmore programs) the student can request letters of reference electronically through the on-line application system. The submitted request will be emailed to the recommender, who can then use the link in the email to visit the Off-Campus Study web site. After logging in, the recommender can view and submit pending recommendations, review past recommendations, or alternatively provide a paper form to referees.

Recommenders are encouraged to use the online system, however it is also possible to submit the Off-Campus Study Recommendation Form, which may be returned with a letter of recommendation on departmental letterhead to the student or directly to the Off-Campus Study Office in a sealed, signed envelope by the application deadline. If you prefer this method please make this known to the student.

References for Other Study Abroad Programs
Some study abroad programs may have their own system for electronic requests for letters of reference. Others may have separate paper forms that must be completed by the recommender. In all cases it is the responsibility of the student to contact the recommender to request the reference and to provide the electronic link or the paper reference form with instructions on where to submit the reference.