How to Write a Great Peer Recommendation
Some schools–such as Dartmouth College, Davidson College, and others–ask for a peer recommendation or a peer evaluation as part of the application process. While some colleges offer a specific questionnaire for peer recommendations, others are free-form. If you’ve been asked to write a peer recommendation by one of your friends, here are some tips for helping you help your friend! Keep in mind that while a mediocre recommendation won’t necessarily ruin your friend’s application, a great one can really make a difference in the admissions process.
Explain how you know the applicant Colleges ask for peer recommendations because they want insight into a potential student beyond what they’ll get from teacher recommendations. Perhaps the applicant is your teammate or a classmate. Presumably, you know them well, and you should convey both the context of your relationship and that you are close to the applicant. Note that if you don’t feel that you know someone well enough to write a recommendation, you should reconsider and talk to whoever asked you for the letter.
Think about your friend’s strengths and come up with specific examples If you’re having trouble, try to think of times when your friend demonstrated a genuine, passionate interest in learning or seemed especially committed and motivated. These are excellent qualities which all colleges look for and if your friend exhibits these traits, you should certainly emphasize these instances. If the recommendation form asks for your friend’s weaknesses, be honest, but add a sentence or two about how these weaknesses could be considered strengths. For instance, perhaps your friend, like many students, can be extremely critical of themselves when they receive a poor grade. You could briefly explain how this can also be seen as a manifestation of your friend’s intense motivation.
Think of an instance in which your friend demonstrated character This is the crucial place where you can show that you truly know the applicant, and where you can tell the college something that a teacher’s letter cannot. Ideally, the admissions office already knows from your friend’s application that they work hard and are serious about school–show them that your friend possesses some special quality that would make them a contributor to the school outside of just the classroom. This is one of the places in the application where personality can really come through. Colleges want to get to know the people they accept. Help the application reader get to know your friend as well as you do. Contemplate why you are friends with the applicant in the first place, and what makes them a good person, a good friend, a good brother/sister, a good teammate, etc. Is your friend especially kind, supportive, funny, or mature? What first comes to mind when you think of your friend? Again, remember to use more than just abstract language and to give a specific example.