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Letters of Recommendation

To apply for Off-Campus Studies, students must apply both to Whitman for Off-Campus Study Approval and to the actual OCS program for admission to the program.

Listed below are tips for Whitman faculty writing letters of recommendation for Study Abroad Programs and U.S. Partner Programs.

Letter of Recommendation - Whitman OCS Application

Students who apply for Off-Campus Studies are required by Whitman to submit a letter of recommendation only if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

1.    Student has a cumulative gpa of less than 3.0
2.    Student has a major gpa or previous semester gpa of less than 2.8
3.    Student is applying to a Petitioned Program
4.    Student wishes to spend two semesters abroad in two different locations

Faculty writing letters of recommendation for the OCS Application should, when possible, indicate your assessment of the student’s strengths and weaknesses as a candidate for off-campus study to their intended destination(s).

There is a standard Whitman OCS Application Letter of Recommendation form that the student should sign and give you at least three weeks prior to the Whitman deadline.

The Whitman deadline is usually in early September for spring off-campus study and early February for fall off-campus study.  (Exact deadline information can be found under “Applying” on this website.)  Sometimes a student will request that a letter be completed sooner than the Whitman deadline if applying to a program with rolling admission or an early deadline.

Letters of Recommendation - Program Admission Applications


Many programs (such as IFSA Butler, CIEE, IES, SIT, and SFS) require that a recommender complete a recommendation form available on their website. Usually the student will download and sign the form before giving it to the recommender. Faculty are welcome to attach a letter to the recommendation form in addition to completing the form itself, if they find the form too restrictive.


Letters of recommendation are usually due no later than the date of the Whitman OCS application deadline, usually early September for spring off-campus study and early February for fall off-campus study. (Exact deadline information can be found under "Applying" on this website.) Sometimes a student will request that a letter be completed sooner if they are applying to a program that has an early deadline or employs rolling admission.

Where to Send Letters

All letters of recommendation for Program Admission Applications should be sent directly to the program.

Content of Letters

Because most letters of recommendation are reviewed by either the foreign university or Off-Campus Study program provider, it is best to write them with these audiences in mind.

In the letters of recommendation, program admission committees usually want to know about a student's academic preparedness for the particular Off-Campus Studies Program and performance in your courses, as well as other qualities that attest to their suitability for study in a foreign country, such as maturity, flexibility, motivation, cultural sensitivity and ability to get along in a group.

Many off-campus study programs require a minimum cumulative gpa of 3.0 or above.  Therefore, it especially is important to address the academic strengths and weaknesses of students with a gpa below 3.0 that you are recommending.

Language Assessment Letters

Language faculty are often asked to write letters of recommendation specifically addressing a student's language proficiency for study in a target language abroad. Please be as candid and specific as possible in these letters, as they help the program's admission staff gauge whether or not a student has the foreign language skills to successfully participate in the program.

Scholarship Letters

You may be asked to write a letter of reference for an outside scholarship for off-campus study. Many of these scholarships (such as Gilman, NSEP Boren, IES Merit) are very competitive and letters of recommendation should be written with that in mind.

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