/ Provost's Office

Guidelines for Letters of Recommendation and Support

External Letters

What should the relationship be between the external letter writers and the applicant?

This question allows for some gray area. Letter writers need to be objective, so letters from professional colleagues with close personal relationships with the applicant are discouraged. Specifically, letter writers should not be dissertation advisers, post-doc advisers, co-authors (close personal colleagues), co-PIs, personal friends or family.

Should my letter write disclose the nature of our relationship?

Letter writers must disclose their relationship (including if there isn’t one) in the letter.

Who will be selected to write these external letters and by whom?

Deans will work with the chair, department (or committee) and applicant to come up with a short list with attention paid to the quality of the school at which the letter writer works, the professional stature of the letter writer and the expertise of the letter writer that qualifies him or her to write for the applicant, etc.

What should the external letters address?

These letters are to provide discipline-specific insights. The letter writer is expected to assess the quality (not quantity) and significance of the applicant’s scholarly or artistic work. The letter writer should attend to the following aspects:

  • Does the work break new ground?
  • Is the work responsive to the current state of the discipline?
  • Does the work either confirm or disconfirm other work in the area (sciences)?
  • If the author has several case studies, are there other works that are more analytical in nature?


Internal/Local Letters
(Within Hope College or Holland)

What should the relationship be between the internal/local letter writers and the applicant?

There are no relational restrictions other than typical conflicts of interest.

What should the internal letters address?

These letters are to provide information regarding the nature and quality of the engagement with the college and local community, especially as it is related to service. The letters should address whether the applicant comes prepared to meetings, participates regularly, can give and take criticism appropriately, displays Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse and willingly does his or her portion of the work.