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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

Writing Your Own Recommendation Letters

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

Service Academy nominations and applications require LORs so draft a good one!


Often, the teacher, coach, ROTC commander, Scoutmaster, or other adult from whom you request a letter of recommendation (LOR) is very busy. Their schedule and commitments may not allow them the time to write an LOR for you in a timely manner.


So . . . offer to draft the letter for them!


In many ways, your memory of an accomplishment or a project may be richer than the mentor's recall. You can simply provide the details and allow the recommender to edit and expand the letter after you provide the text and examples that you would like to highlight.


Here are a few pointers:

  • Create a letter that is fully formatted (refer to the outline below).

  • Leave open spaces to allow the recommender to add sentences.

  • Don't be afraid to 'brag' about your accomplishments. The recommender can add or replace your choice of adjectives and adverbs if the desire.

  • Include good, concrete success stories or other details.

  • Finally, the mentor must finalize the letter and sign the document. Using letter head from the school or organization is ideal, if applicable. The LOR should include her/his contact information (i.e., cell phone number and email address).

I've worked with many students to create these drafts for former employers, coaches and other adult mentors. The basics of the letter are:

  • Date

    • May 17, 2023

    • September 2, 2023

  • Salutation

    • "To whom it may concern"

    • "To the selection committee"

  • Thrust of the letter

    • "It is my pleasure to recommend Ms. . . . for your appointment to the . . ."

    • "I am honored to have the opportunity to endorse Mr. . . . for your nomination and appointment to one of the U.S. service academies."

  • Relationship

    • "For the last three years, I have served as Jane's Army JROTC commander. I have witnessed her . . ."

    • "Mr. Johnson has played on our football team since his freshman year. I've had the pleasure as an assistant football coach, and now head coach, to work with him."

  • Concrete details and examples

    • "John served as the Senior Patrol Leader of our troop last year. As SPL, he implemented . . . for a troop of 25 Scouts. His plan included . . . resulting in the . . ."

    • "Stephanie is the Captain of our lacrosse team. She was unanimously elected by the team as she . . . During the season, she took responsibility for . . . allowing the team to achieve . . ."

  • Closing

    • "This young woman is the ideal candidate for . . . I strongly recommend that you select Ms. Garcia for a nomination and appointment to the . . ."

    • "Manny has my highest recommendation for an appointment to the . . . I have highest confidence that . . ."

  • Signature block

    • John H. Smith, Lacrosse Coach, XYZ High School, (111) 222-3333, jhsmith@xyzhs.com

    • Lydia Menendez, Captain, US Navy, Retired, (222) 333-4444, la@la.com

Two to four LORs are often a requirement for your nomination applications. The Air Force Academy and other SAs allow adding optional recommendation letters to your admissions file. If you find that one of your potential recommenders is quite busy, then you should offer to draft the letter for her/him. The offer may be the ideal solution for both of you.


Draft it, keep my guidance in mind, coordinate with your recommender and your 'next' LOR will be a good one!


[I would welcome a chance to discuss details with you. I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process . . . along with the even more advice around your LORs! Contact me at chris@cbbrechin.com, 503.515.7406 or use my contact form on this website.]



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