While I am no expert, based upon what I have seen on college forms, I tend to use the following points as I write:
- Who the student is and the purpose of the letter
- How I know the student-context, length of time and how well
- Personality characteristics of the student
- Highlighting the academic record of the student
- Highlighting the community service and activities of the student
- Experiences that I know about--how they have helped the student grow as a person/student
- How the above points will make the person successful in college/worthy of the scholarship
- Reiteration of positives and contact information
When in doubt, I say something like, "I'm not sure I know you well enough to write a letter that will be good/effective enough for you. Try checking with other teachers who have known you longer."
What do all of you think? It would be great to hear from all those letter writers so we can share our collective wisdom and experience.