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Since I'm applying for grad school, I'm currently in the process of acquiring recommendation letters from my professors. They usually ask me a few questions about how to guide the letter, such as what do I want to emphasize and how to address the letter?

How does one address a grad school applicant's recommendation letter? I mostly settle for "Dear Madam or Sir". Is "Dear Graduate Admissions Committee" or some other alternative considered better?

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    The header is the least of your concerns regarding your application. What they probably are asking you is what are your strong points, and how are you presenting them in your cover letter or equivalent. – Davidmh Oct 7 '14 at 13:52
  • @Davidmh thanks for the reminder. I do understand it's the least of my concerns, however I am curious if there is a standard or not. – Seanny123 Oct 7 '14 at 13:54
  • I often use "Dear Colleagues" when addressing a committee whose membership I know nothing about. – Andreas Blass Sep 16 '15 at 14:39
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According to Wikipedia

  1. Dear Sir or Madam or 'Sir/Madam' (If the gender of the reader is unknown).
  2. To Whom It May Concern (If the writer wishes to exclude the gender of the reader from the salutation and/or to convey that the reader should forward the copy to one more suited to receive or respond appropriately).

As @Davidmh has mentioned it is least concerned. I personally have chosen to use "To Whom It May Concern" when I applied to grad school as in some grad schools the recommendation letters might get forwarded from the admissions staff to various professors.

Edit : The first is British English and the second is American English as mentioned by @Davidmh

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    The first is British English, the second corresponds to American English. – Davidmh Oct 7 '14 at 14:04
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If you are required to send your letter of recommendation to a specific person (may be your future advisor), the admission committee, head of department or an office in the university where you are applying to, then you should tell your professor to address that specific person or office. If in the guidelines of your application, you have not seen any emphasis on to whom/where should the letter be written, then ask your professor to write you a general recommendation like the one indicated in the @Srikanth's answer.

P.S: As I read the first paragraph of your question; I think your professors want to know what is most important for you to be included in your letter of recommendation. Something which will positively affect your application chance and something that should become bold in their recommendation. Of course they have many students in their classes and they may miss some positive and important points about you. So, they ask you to remind them the important things which comes to your mind. I have seen some professors that ask the students who want letters of recommendation to write a draft themselves and by reading the draft, they write a recommendation letter for their student.

  • Moderately off-topic, but is it actually appropriate to bold something in a recommendation letter? – Seanny123 Oct 7 '14 at 14:51
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    @Seanny123 Not to really make some parts of the text bold. To make some indication in your recommendation, to highlight your positive points, to mention important parts. – Enthusiastic Engineer Oct 7 '14 at 14:58
  • I usually put the first occurrence of the recommendee's name in bold. – Andreas Blass Sep 16 '15 at 14:40

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