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Harvard Recommendation Letter Writing Guide 2023

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Do you dream of studying at Harvard? Undoubtedly, it’s the dream of millions of students in the world. Harvard is a prestigious higher study institution and admission is given to the students who meet their specific criteria. If your application contains a carefully crafted and tailor-made Harvard recommendation letter, your odds of getting admission are higher. In this blog, we will present you with a detailed account of Harvard LOR. It will help to clarify your questions like: 

  • What is a Harvard letter of recommendation? 
  • How to write a Harvard recommendation letter in simple steps? 
  • How to use recommendation letter sample Harvard?

What Is a Harvard Recommendation Letter? Why Is It Important?

Harvard letter of recommendation is a letter written to the admission committee of Harvard to recommend you to their higher study program. It gives a third-person point of view regarding your suitability for the program, character, skills and strengths. When you seek admission to a highly competitive institute like Harvard, a powerful LOR is essential. 

  • LOR verifies your character, personality traits, skills and strengths
  • A good LOR strengthens your Harvard application and increases admission odds 
  • LOR throws light on the unique qualities that could set you apart from other applicants
  • LOR brings more objectivity to your application since it is endorsed by a third person
  • Your LOR for Harvard confirms the claims you made in the statement of purpose 

Need Help In Writing a Letter of Recommendation? Contact Us

Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting to Write the Harvard Recommendation Letter

If you are someone who is expected to write a Harvard LOR for someone, it’s important you write it with a vivid mind. When you attempt with a vague mind, things can go wrong. 

What is the purpose of this Harvard LOR?

Before writing a Harvard LOR, understand its exact purpose. Get to know the exact program and its eligibility criteria and see how closely the candidate meets them.

How do you know the applicant/candidate?

Explain in what capacity you have associated with the candidate and how long your association had been

What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the candidate?

Talk about the personal attributes, skills and strengths that you have noticed in the candidate and can vouch for. 

What are the major achievements of the candidate?

Write about the academic, extracurricular or professional achievements the candidate made during your association with him

What is your overall impression of the candidate?

Give your overall assessment of the candidate based on what you felt, and noticed during your association with the applicant. 

What Do Admissions Officers Look For In Harvard Reference Letter?

  • Clarity and validation of the personality of the candidate
  • Proof of the candidate’s academic, professional or extracurricular achievements. 
  • Unique qualities, experiences, or strengths that differentiate the candidate from other applicants 
  • Validation for the points the candidate has mentioned in the SOP or any other documents
  • Solid proof that the candidate has the potential to take up the program and complete it successfully.

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How Long Should Your Harvard University Recommendation Letter Be?

LOR should be straight to the point, precise and cover a full package of information that satisfies the selectors. An ideal LOR, as per Harvard recommendation letter requirements, could go up to 500 words and wouldn’t be shorter than 400. 

Recommendation Letter Sample Harvard

Here are some Harvard university letters of recommendation samples for you to review prior to writing. It will help you brainstorm for points easily. 

Dear Members of the Harvard University Admission Panel

I am writing this to recommend Mr XXX for admission to Harvard University. Having associated with Mr XXX in the capacity of a HOD for three years during his graduation period, I can honestly and confidently vouch for his academic excellence, social commitment, leadership qualities and personal virtues. I strongly believe he will be an exemplary student at your institute.

Mr XXX has been one the finest students in his batch and for this reason, I have a sound memory of every personal and academic association I had with him. He was a gifted student with an enviable capacity to grasp new concepts more quickly than his peers. Coupled with this was his strong ability to think critically. He would think about its practical application whenever a new concept is introduced. He was inquisitive and curious – the two qualities that I believe would make a student become a genuine follower of knowledge.

As a HOD, it was my duty to ensure that all students submit their academic projects on time. XXX never complained about the lack of time to do academic projects. He had exceptional time management skills. No matter how herculean the tasks are, he was able to finish them all on time. During one of my private conversations with him, I asked him about it and his reply was very inspirational I remember telling it to other students too. He said, “The best way to manage your time efficiently is to set priorities.”

Apart from the academic side, XXX was a wonderful human being. He believed it was everyone’s duty to contribute to society. He was among the organizers of college charity events for the less privileged such as orphans. In one of such programmes where he was the key organizer, we were able to raise about $5000 to buy textbooks, stationery, school bags and other materials for poor students from various communities. He was very good at communicating his ideas to a wider audience and convincing them. Also, he possessed good leadership qualities.

In conclusion, I have no hesitation to recommend Mr XXX Harvard. As someone who closely associated with him and watched him grow academically, personally and socially from a distance, I have no doubt about his potential to grow even further if given better opportunities. In a place like Harvard, he will have the most conducive atmosphere to excel academically and be a key player in the university student community.

Thank you for taking the time to review this recommendation letter. If you require any further details from my side, please do not hesitate to get back to me on my phone or email.


[Your Name]

[Your Position/Title]

[Your Institution/Organization]

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Guidelines for Using Harvard Letter of Recommendation Sample

  • Do not copy or modify the LOR samples. Use them only as a starting point to help you plan your LOR better. 
  • Read at least a couple of samples. Reading just one sample will not be of much help since it won’t show you the whole picture. 
  • Analyse the sample carefully to understand the structure, format and key points discussed. Note down the important information you gather from the samples on a piece of paper. 
  • After you have finished writing down your own LOR, compare it with a Harvard recommendation letter sample and see where your version of the letter underperforms. 

Write Your Recommendation Letter Harvard In 5 Steps

Here are five simple steps to help you write your recommendation letter for Harvard.

Collect all relevant points:

Get all the important details from the candidate such as the name of the program being applied, the name/designation of the person to whom the LOR should be addressed, career aspirations, strengths and achievements etc. These are necessary to compose a customized LOR.

Prepare an outline:

Prepare an LOR outline with a legit structure and format – an introduction, body and then conclusion. This outline will help you stay more focused while developing the body and maintain the appropriate length.

Develop the points:

Develop each section. Write an introduction showing the type and duration of your association with the candidate, a body explaining strengths, achievements, and character and a conclusion giving an overview plus a strong recommendation.

Give your contact details:

At the end of the LOR, show your willingness to be contacted in case the admission panel requires any further verification from your end. Also, include your most accessible contact details, official email address or phone number.

Proofread and modify:

Once you have successfully completed the writing, go back to the introduction followed by the body and conclusion. Check if there are any grammatical or spelling mistakes. Also improve the overall readability, logic and cohesion of your letter.

Who Can Write My Harvard Recommendation Letter?

When you apply for a higher study program at Harvard, you need a strong recommendation letter written by someone who can endorse you authentically. It could be: 

Your teacher or professor:

A teacher or professor who taught you at school or college and knows you well can write your recommendation letter.

HOD or principal:

LORs written by the Head of the Department or Principal are quite powerful. So, get one from either of them or both if that is applicable in your case.


If you have any working experience after your previous qualification, you can get an LOR from your employer too. The employer could give a powerful insight into your skills, work ethic, professionalism etc.

Need Help In Writing a Letter of Recommendation? Contact Us

Final Checklist

Here is a checklist to help you validate your Harvard letter of recommendation before submission. 

  • Does my LOR strongly recommend me for the Harvard program? 
  • Does the LOR follow a recognized format and structure? 
  • Is the LOR tailored for the program being applied? 
  • Does the LOR have a clear introduction showing its purpose and details of the referee who is endorsing it? 
  • Has the LOR been proofread and corrected? 

Dos and Don’ts While Writing Letter of Recommendation for Harvard


  • Get ready with your LOR at the earliest. Most referees could be busy. So, you need to plan ahead. 
  • Find the right referee to write your LOR. Do not choose a referee who is not enthusiastic to recommend you
  • Provide the referee with all necessary details to help him/her write a bespoke LOR for you
  • Meet the referee in person and discuss your needs in detail. Depend on online or phone communication only as a Plan B. 
  • Submit the LOR before the deadline. Although you can upload it till the last date, it is always preferable to upload/submit it at least two weeks before the deadline. 


  • Do not exaggerate the skills or strengths or accomplishments of the candidate. Write in a balanced tone. 
  • The use of complicated vocabulary will not make an LOR look more impressive. Instead, a simple and straightforward LOR does it. 
  • Don’t try to include too many points. Focus on a couple of areas in which you can authentically vouch for the candidate. 
  • Do not sound negative. The purpose of an LOR is to recommend a candidate. If it looks negative, it can backfire.
  • Don’t use cliches. It can happen if you simply modify a letter of recommendation sample Harvard. Write a genuine LOR based on your association with the candidate. 

Need Help In Writing a Letter of Recommendation? Contact Us

Four Pro Tips for Writing an Impactful Harvard LOR

Here are four additional tips to help you make your LOR at par or even better than the Harvard letter of recommendation example we shared here. 

  • Use quantifiable information. For instance, mention how good he/she was at studies out of the total students in that class. 
  • If you can’t really recall the candidate’s specific details, refer to the academic records. You can also ask the candidate himself for specific information. 
  • Submit the LOR as instructed. For some Harvard programs, the referee should submit or send the LOR directly to the Harvard admission panel. Confirm how you are required to submit it. 
  • Harvard admission panel specifically looks for the referee’s take on the candidate’s potential for success and character. Highlight them. 


Did that help you write a powerful Harvard recommendation letter? 

We hope that it did. 

We are excited to know your feedback and whether you have any suggestions or further doubts regarding any points discussed in this blog. 

So, write them in the comments below. 



I am Anjit.V.S, a freelance writer, overseas education consultant and an academic documentation expert. Over the years, I have written documents for thousands of students and hundreds of businesses and individuals worldwide. Many of the prominent study abroad counsellors in India refer me to their students for SOP, LOR, admission essays. personal statements and other similar documents. Not just the academic documents but whatever content needs you have, stay assured. Perfectly impeccable services are delivered.

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