If you've been asked to write a letter of recommendation for someone vying for admission to the United States Naval Academy, you've been paid a handsome compliment. The applicant, who probably knows you well, trusts that you will write a compelling letter that will enhance his chances of being admitted. It's an important task, so take your time and, if necessary, revise the letter for clarity and precision until it depicts the applicant honestly and compellingly.
Invest some time reading about the naval academy, either through written materials the applicant might have or through its website. Focus on the tenets of a naval education, and jot down notes about why you believe the candidate would be a good fit there. Your goal is to paint an honest portrait of the applicant while underscoring how he would enhance the academic community there.
Begin your letter by stating your purpose -- that you are writing to recommend someone for admission -- and briefly summarize your relationship to the applicant. Don't pull any punches with the closing line in this important paragraph. Say that you believe the applicant would make an outstanding addition to the naval academy.
Prove that you've done your homework and explain why the applicant can rise to the challenges of a naval education, which include required courses in engineering, naval science, navigation and weapons systems. While you might be unfamiliar with the intricacies of these courses, focus on the applicant's discipline, motivation and tenacity -- skills that he will need to succeed in these courses. Point out what many educators know -- that the best predictor of a student's future success is his academic history.
Bolster your recommendation by segueing to the applicant's personal characteristics. The naval academy fosters ethics, leadership skills and respect for military law. Instead of conjecturing, supply an anecdote or two about the candidate that makes him seem human but also extraordinary. Be descriptive but concise, and remember that your goal is to confine your recommendation letter to one page.
Conclude your letter with a whole-hearted endorsement, and offer to answer any questions the academy might have through phone or email. You might say, for example, that you are confident the applicant will rise to the challenges of a naval education because he “embodies the finest characteristics of United States naval officers."
If time allows, set your recommendation letter aside for a day and return to it with a clear mind. Proofread and edit it carefully before sending it.