What's Your Question?

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

People may need letters of recommendation in a variety of situations, such as applying for admission to school, applying for a job or even trying to rent an apartment. Are you writing a letter of recommendation for someone? Here’s what to include in and leave out of an effective letter.

Overview of Letter of Recommendation

A professional or personal acquaintance may ask you for this type of letter. The document outlines the nature of your relationship with the person in question and why you recommend the person for the job or other need. A letter of recommendation needs to include specific information, and sometimes the person requesting the letter may ask you to mention something specific, such as an attribute or a situation that illustrates why he or she is a good candidate. Letters of recommendation need to be detailed and personal.

Points to Include

An effective letter of recommendation can include a short opening paragraph that describes your relationship to the person you’re recommending. Next, segue into a brief overview of the person’s skills or accomplishments as they pertain to the purpose for the letter. For example, if you’re writing to a prospective employer, mention specific qualifications that make the person an ideal prospect for the job. Include examples of these qualifications if possible by explaining a situation in which your acquaintance demonstrated them. Finish the letter with a brief summary that outlines why you’re making the recommendation.

What Not to Say

Sending a weak or even damaging letter of recommendation is definitely not something you want to do. Avoid writing anything that sounds less than enthusiastic. Don’t provide mere generalities about the person, and try not to sound impersonal with just an overview of facts. Making your recommendation letter another version of the person’s resume can potentially create an impersonal letter. Make sure you flesh out your letter so it’s engaging, full of insight and more than a paragraph or two long.

Letter of Recommendation Sample

If you’re not sure how to write a letter of recommendation, you might peruse sample letters available on the internet. These letters include the basics to cover so you can use them as guides as you create your own letter. You might also use a template for the letter of recommendation. After downloading a template, you can simply add your personal information and details to make it yours.

Ideas for Other Types of Letters

Writing letters may seem outdated, but there are many situations that demand written communication. You may need to write a letter of request, letter of complaint, letter of gratitude and thanks or a letter of concern. Looking at sample letters can make the letter-writing process easier. Letters of encouragement can be a meaningful way of reaching out to professional or personal acquaintances. And, a letter of congratulations might be in order if the acquaintance for whom you wrote the letter of recommendation finds success in their endeavor.


writing letter of recommendation for student


Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 4 amazing recommendation letter samples for students.

Letters of Recommendation


How important are recommendation letters in a college application? According to William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, they are "extremely important."

If you're a student, examples of great letters of recommendation can help you understand how to get strong letters yourself from your teachers. If you're a teacher, the examples in this guide will inspire you to support your students strongly as they apply to college. Keep reading for four excellent letters from teachers that will get anyone into college , along with expert analysis on why they're so strong.

Important Note: Are you looking for job recommendation letters? If so, check out my great post here!

First, let's understand the role of recommendation letters in your application.

Why are Recommendation Letters Important?

The majority of admissions officers at four-year colleges, especially private schools, emphasize that their process is holistic . They seek to gain a sense of the student as a "whole person," rather than focusing on pieces of who she is based solely on grades and test scores. Since they rarely meet the student in person, the recommendation letters, along with the student's own personal essay, play a huge role in illuminating her intellectual and personal qualities.

That's why recommendation letters from teachers, especially those who know their students well, carry a great deal of weight in applications. A letter that expresses a strong vote of support, as well as highlights a student's impressive academic and personal strengths , can have a powerful effect on that student's chances of admission.

Let's look at some samples of strong recommendation letters, one from an English teacher, another from a physics teacher, the third from a history teacher, and the final one from a math teacher. Then we'll break down exactly why these letters of recommendation are effective.

The first example recommends Sara, a senior who loves to write and read poetry.

Sample Letter #1: Sara the Poet

Dear Admissions Committee, I had the pleasure of teaching Sara in her 11th grade honors English class at Mark Twain High School. From the first day of class, Sara impressed me with her ability to be articulate about difficult concepts and texts, her sensitivity to the nuances within literature, and her passion for reading, writing, and creative expression- both in and out of the classroom. Sara is a talented literary critic and poet, and she has my highest recommendation as a student and writer. Sara is talented at considering the subtleties within literature and the purpose behind authors' works. She produced an extraordinary year-long thesis paper on creative identity development, in which she compared works from three different time periods and synthesized cultural and historical perspectives to inform her analysis. When called upon to give her thesis defense in front of her peers, Sara spoke clearly and eloquently about her conclusions and responded to questions in a thoughtful way. Outside of the classroom, Sara is dedicated to her literary pursuits, especially to poetry. She publishes her poetry in our school's literary magazine, as well as in online magazines. She is an insightful, sensitive, and deeply self-aware individual driven to explore art, writing, and a deeper understanding of the human condition. Throughout the year Sara was an active participant in our discussions, and she always supported her peers. Her caring nature and personality allow her to work well with others in a team setting, as she always respects others' opinions even when they differ from her own. When we held a class debate about gun laws, Sara opted to speak for the side opposite her own views. She explained her choice as motivated by a desire to put herself in other people's shoes, view the issues from a new perspective, and gain a clearer sense of the issue from all angles. Throughout the year, Sara demonstrated this openness to and empathy for the opinions, feelings, and perspectives of others, along with shrewd powers of observation, all qualities that makes her outstanding as a student of literature and burgeoning writer. I am certain that Sara is going to continue to do great and creative things in her future. I highly recommend her for admission to your undergraduate program. She is talented, caring, intuitive, dedicated, and focused in her pursuits. Sara consistently seeks out constructive feedback so she can improve her writing skills, which is a rare and impressive quality in a high school student. Sara is truly a stand-out individual who will impress everyone she meets. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at [email protected] Sincerely, Ms. Scribe English Teacher Mark Twain High School

This is a thorough, glowing recommendation for a student that Ms. Scribe clearly knows well. What other features make it stand out as a strong letter of rec?


The Breakdown

Ms. Scribe has a high opinion of Sara and her skills at writing and literary analysis. One way that she expresses this is by using powerful and specific language. She doesn't merely say Sara is a good writer. She says she's articulate about difficult concepts and sensitive to the nuances within literature. She calls her insightful and self-aware with shrewd powers of observation.

These descriptors don't happen by accident. Ms. Scribe took the time to choose her words carefully , and that effort paid off with a strong letter that captures Sara's special qualities.

Ms. Scribe also supports her characterization of Sara with examples . She describes her thesis paper and how she responded to questions thoughtfully under the pressured situation of her thesis defense. She gives the example of the debate on gun laws to illustrate Sara's openness to many different points of view.

In addition to illuminating her intellectual and personal strengths and supporting them with specific examples, Ms. Scribe speaks to Sara's goals for the future. She points out that she is talented at writing, poetry specifically, and that she is committed to continuing to improve as a writer in her future.

This letter, by virtue of its wording, length, and specificity, shows that Ms. Scribe took the time and effort to recommend Sara thoughtfully and with conviction. The fact that she knows Sara well and is committed to helping her application succeed with a thoughtful letter further adds weight to her assessment.

This letter would be a boon to Sara's application, especially if she's applying to study writing or English. She clearly impressed her English teacher and, in return, got a memorable, complimentary letter of recommendation for her college application.

This next example is similarly enthusiastic and detailed. It's for a student applying to an engineering program.

writing letter of recommendation for student

Want to build the best possible college application, with the strongest recommendations?

We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies . We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.

We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools .

Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.

Get Into Your Top Choice School

Sample Letter #2: Stacy the Engineer

Dear Admissions Committee, It is a great pleasure to recommend Stacy for admission to your engineering program. She is one of the most exceptional students I have encountered in my 15 years of teaching. I taught Stacy in my 11th grade honors physics class and advised her in Robotics Club. I am not surprised to find out she is now ranked at the top of an extraordinarily capable class of seniors. She has a keen interest in and talent for physics, math, and scientific inquiry. Her advanced skills and passion for the subject make her an ideal fit for your rigorous engineering program. Stacy is a perceptive, sharp, quick individual with a high aptitude for math and science. She is driven to understand how things work, whether they be the old computer hard drives in the school library or the forces that hold our universe together. Her final project in class was especially impressive, an investigation of frequency-dependent sound absorption, an idea that she said was sparked by not wanting to bother her parents with her hours of guitar practice at home. She's been a strong leader in Robotics Club, eager to share her knowledge with others and learn new skills. I have the students in the club prepare lessons and take turns leading our after-school meetings. When it was Stacy's turn, she showed up prepared with a fascinating lecture on lunar nautics and fun activities that got everyone moving and talking. She was our only student teacher to be met with much deserved applause at the end of her lesson. Stacy's personal strengths are as impressive as her intellectual accomplishments. She's an active, outgoing presence in class with a great sense of humor. Stacy's the perfect person to get a group project rolling, but she also knows how to sit back and let others take the lead. Her cheerful nature and openness to feedback means she's always learning and growing as a learner, an impressive strength that will continue to serve her well in college and beyond. Stacy is just the kind of driven, engaging, and curious student that helped make our classroom a lively environment and safe place to take intellectual risks. Stacy has my highest recommendation for admission to your engineering program. She has demonstrated excellence in all that she puts her mind to, whether it's designing an experiment, collaborating with others, or teaching herself to play classical and electrical guitar. Stacy's endless curiosity, combined with her willingness to take risks, leads me to believe there will be no limit to her growth and achievements in college and beyond. Please don't hesitate to contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions. Sincerely, Ms. Randall Physics Teacher Marie Curie High School

Ms. Randall is clearly as much of a fan of Stacy as she is of Mileva Marić. How does she communicate her recommendation?


Ms. Randall plugs for Stacy right off the bat with a statement of outstanding ranking : Stacy is one of the most exceptional students she's had in 15 years of teaching. A statement like this is pretty extraordinary and will make an impact in the mind of its readers. Stacy sounds like a special student, and she chose her recommender well.

Like in the last example, this letter uses strong, specific language , calling Stacy a perceptive and sharp person who has the confidence and good humor to take intellectual risks. Through its accurate and expressive language, this letter helps Stacy come to life in the mind of the reader.

Beyond the evaluation, Ms. Randall gives specific examples of Stacy's academic and personal strengths. She talks about her successful teaching in Robotics Club, her leadership in group projects, and her dedicated practice to teaching herself to play the guitar.

Rather than spreading the letter too thin, Ms. Randall highlights a few core themes. She connects Stacy's love of music with her passion for physics by talking about the frequency-dependent sound absorption project. All the threads tie together in a nice, memorable bow.

This letter is a strong vote of support for Stacy's application to an engineering program. Her physics teacher admires Stacy's skills and goals, and she made it clear that Stacy had her highest recommendation in this letter.

This next example also comes from a teacher who's extremely impressed with his student. It focuses on the student's performance in class and his volunteer work outside the classroom.


Sample Letter #3: William the History Buff and Social Organizer

Dear Admissions Committee, It is hard to overstate the meaningful contributions that William has made to our school and surrounding community. As both his 10th and 11th grade History teacher, I've had the pleasure of seeing William make profound contributions both in and out of the classroom. His school and community service is motivated by a strong sense of social justice, which he informs through a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of historical trends and events. I can say with confidence that William is one of the most caring and driven students I've ever taught in my fifteen years at the school. As a child of immigrant parents, William is especially drawn to understand the immigrant experience. He produced an extraordinary semester-long research paper on the treatment of Japanese-Americans in the U.S. during WWII, in which he went beyond all expectations to conduct Skype interviews with relatives of his featured subjects to incorporate into his paper. William has a great capacity to draw connections between past and present and to ground his understanding of current issues in the context of historical events. He never retreats to a simple answer or explanation, but is comfortable dealing with ambiguity. William's fascination with U.S. and World History and skill for deep analysis have him an exemplary scholar, as a well as a motivated activist driven to promote civil rights and work towards social equity. In sophomore year, William noticed that the college planning seminars students attended included little information for first generation or immigrant students. Always thinking about how institutions can better serve people, William spoke with counselors and ESL teachers about his ideas to better support all students. He helped collect resources and design a college planning curriculum for immigrant and undocumented students to enhance their college access. He further helped organize a group that connected ESL students with native English speakers, stating his mission to be helping ELLs improve their English and increasing multicultural awareness and social cohesion at the school as a whole. William identified a need and worked with students and faculty alike to meet it in an extremely effective and beneficial way. Ever the history scholar, he did plenty of research to back up his ideas. William believes passionately in social progress and working for the common good. His own personal experiences, along with his profound grasp on social history, drive his advocacy work. He is a talented, intelligent student with the charisma, confidence, strong values, and respect for others to make a huge difference in the world around him. I'm looking forward to seeing all the good that William continues to do for his fellow humanity in college and beyond, as well as the excellent work that he will produce at the college level. William has my highest recommendation. If you have any questions, please contact me at [email protected] Sincerely, Mr. Jackson History Teacher Martin Luther King, Jr. High School

Mr. Jackson's letter makes William sound like a pretty amazing student and person. How does he go about expressing his admiration for William in this rec letter?


Like Ms. Randall did in her letter, Mr. Jackson provides a statement of outstanding ranking for William, calling him one of the most caring and driven students he's ever taught. Considering his long teaching career of 15 years, this says a lot about William as a student and a person.

Also like in the last example, Mr. Jackson focuses on a few core aspects of William's character. He talks about his love of history and how it informs his social activism. He comments on his exceptional historical scholarship, as well as his personal qualities of caring for those around him and working for the social good.

Mr. Jackson also gives insight into William's personal life , explaining how he has a personal connection to his projects and volunteer work as the child of immigrant parents. This letter reveals that William is a thoughtful, motivated individual who connects his own experiences with his learning and desire to contribute to his community.

The letter also showcases William's exceptional accomplishments by giving specific examples of William's research paper and his work supporting the academic and personal needs of ELL students. Mr. Jackson expresses his enthusiastic recommendation while illuminating William's love of learning and strength of character. This letter would be both impressive and memorable to admissions officers considering William for admission to their school.

This next example comes from a math teacher. Let's see what Mr. Wiles has to say about Joe.


Sample Letter #4: Joe the Hard Worker

Dear Admissions Committee, It is my pleasure to recommend Joe, who I taught in my 11th grade math class. Joe demonstrated tremendous effort and growth throughout the year and brought a great energy to class. He has that combination of a positive attitude and the belief that he can always improve that's rare in a high school student, but so essential to the learning process. I am confident that he will continue to display the same commitment and diligence in everything he does. I highly recommend Joe for admission to your school. Joe would not describe himself as a math person. He's told me on several occasions that all the numbers and variables make his mind go fuzzy. Joe did, in fact, struggle to comprehend the material at the beginning of the year, but his response to this is what really struck me. Where so many others have given up, Joe took on this class as a welcome challenge. He stayed after school for extra help, got extra tutoring at the nearby college, and asked questions in and out of class. Due to all his hard work, Joe not only raised his grades, but he also inspired some of his classmates to stay after for extra help, as well. Joe truly demonstrated a growth mindset, and he inspired his peers to adopt that valuable perspective, too. Joe helped contribute to our classroom environment as one where all students can feel supported and able to ask questions. Joe's strong belief in his ability to acquire new skills and improve through practice was likely shaped by his years as a baseball player. He's played all through high school and is one of the team's most valuable players. In his final for our class, Joe designed an impressive project calculating and analyzing batting averages. While he initially described himself as not a math person, Joe reaped the benefits of his tremendous effort and found a way to make the subject come alive for him in a way that he was personally invested in. As a teacher, it is incredibly fulfilling to witness a student make this kind of academic and personal progress. Joe is a trustworthy, reliable, good-humored student and friend who supports others in and out of the classroom. He was a pleasure to have in class, and his positive attitude and belief in himself, even in the face of difficulty, is an immensely admirable asset. I'm confident that he will continue to demonstrate the same diligence, perseverance, and optimism that he showed myself and his peers. I highly recommend Joe for admission to your undergraduate program. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions at fortheloveofalgebra[email protected] Sincerely, Mr. Wiles Math Teacher Euclid High School

While the students featured in the first three examples were top of their class or demonstrated leadership in the school, Joe isn't a top achiever in the traditional sense. However, this recommendation is still a strong one, even if it says he struggled in the teacher's class. What does Mr. Wiles focus on to recommend Joe?


Mr. Wiles writes a strong letter for Joe, with the same kind of enthusiasm and specific examples as the other three letters. Even though Joe may not have gotten the strongest grades in his math class, he found an enthusiastic recommender in his math teacher. Mr. Wiles was extremely impressed with Joe's attitude, effort, and growth mindset , which he demonstrated throughout the year and inspired in his fellow classmates.

Mr. Wiles focuses on Joe's substantial personal strengths, ones that would likely be impressive to his future educators. Even in a subject that may not come naturally to him, Joe is diligent and committed. He's not self-conscious about asking questions or seeking extra help, and he retains a strong belief in himself that he can continuously learn, improve, and acquire new skills.

This letter, like the others, is effective because it is focused, supportive, and backed up with examples. As you can tell from these examples, recommendations can communicate a great deal about a student. Because of this, they can have a powerful impact on a student's chances of admission. So what can teachers and students do to make sure they are sending a strong recommendation letter that will help their chances?


Enthusiasm is key.

How to Get a Strong Recommendation Letter

While these letters are about different students with different interests, they share certain fundamental features. One, they sound excited and enthusiastic. The teachers clearly communicate that they are impressed by these students and eager to help them get into college.

At the same time, the letters don't go overboard because they have examples to back up their assessments. Specific examples and stories are key for backing up the assessment. Plus, they make a letter more interesting and memorable. Rather than just another engineering applicant, Stacy is the student who researched sound-absorption to spare her parents from hours of guitar scales.

Finally, the teachers all discuss their students' personal strengths , along with their academic strengths. They present the holistic view that admissions officers are looking for, along with their strong vote of confidence in the students' future success.

Teachers should incorporate all these features into their letters, and students should help provide them with the raw material to write about. While students should choose a teacher who knows them well and has stories and observations to share, they should also give their teachers a detailed "brag sheet" and let them know what would go into their ideal letter. That way it can be even more personalized and complement the story the student is telling in the rest of her application.

While recommenders may or may not share their letters with students, there should still be open, two-way communication when the student makes her request . That way students and teachers can work together to produce an insightful, enthusiastic, and specific letter of recommendation to send to colleges.

What's Next?

Are you a teacher writing recommendations for your students? Read all about how to write an outstanding recommendation letter for your students , along with what not to include.

Are you or a student you work with applying to a selective school, like Harvard? Learn about what kind of letter she should get for the Ivy League.

Now that you've read these examples of strong teacher recommendation letters, check out these examples of bad ones . Warning: rec letters may appear better than they actually are.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

Improve With Our Famous Guides

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points

How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading

Score 800 on SAT Writing

Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading

Score 600 on SAT Writing

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?

15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points

How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:

36 on ACT English

36 on ACT Math

36 on ACT Reading

36 on ACT Science

Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:

24 on ACT English

24 on ACT Math

24 on ACT Reading

24 on ACT Science

What ACT target score should you be aiming for?

ACT Vocabulary You Must Know

ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide

Should you retake your SAT or ACT?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Stay Informed

writing letter of recommendation for student

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?

Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:

GRE Online Prep Blog

GMAT Online Prep Blog

TOEFL Online Prep Blog

Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”

Letter of Recommendation Samples for Students

Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts.

writing letter of recommendation for student

How To Request a Recommendation Letter

How to write a recommendation letter, what to include in a recommendation letter for a student, how to use letter examples and templates, student recommendation letter example, character / personal recommendation letters, character reference letter example, how to create a reference list, frequently asked questions (faqs).

Hero Images / Getty Images

Students may need a letter of recommendation to land a job, secure an internship, or earn a spot in a competitive academic program. But to make a good impression on the recipient, a letter of recommendation must be more than just an enthusiastic endorsement—it must follow a specific format.

Whether you are a student who needs a letter of recommendation for an application or a reference writer, here’s how to format your letter and what to include in the document. Plus, you’ll find a few samples to help guide your writing.

Key Takeaways

When you request a letter of recommendation (sometimes also called a letter of reference), be sure to remind potential letter writers how they know you and give them information on why you need the letter (for example, tell them the types of job you will be applying for).

You might also provide the person with your most up-to-date resume or CV. These details will make it easier for them to write a personalized and targeted reference letter.

You should also provide all the information the person needs regarding how to submit the letter, what to include (if there are any requirements) and when it is due.

When writing a reference letter , be sure to explain how you know the student, and describe some of the qualities that make him or her a good candidate for the job or school. Use specific examples to demonstrate how the person has shown those qualities.

Focus on the specific job or school the person is applying for. Try to include qualities and examples that will help them get that position or get into that school.

Feel free to ask the person for whom you are writing the letter for more information. You might ask to see the job listing, their resume, or a list of their related coursework.

Contact Information If you’re writing a formal printed letter, include your contact information, as well as the recipient’s information, at the top of the letter.

Greeting If you are writing a personal recommendation letter, include a salutation to start your letter (Dear Dr. Smith, or Dear Ms. Jones, for example).

Paragraph 1: Introduction Explain why you're writing and how you are connected to the person you are recommending, including how you know them, and for how long.

Paragraph 2/3: Why You're Writing Share information on the person you are writing about, including why they are qualified and what they have to offer. It's fine to include more than one paragraph to provide details of the student's academic and work performance. Including examples of how they have excelled is a good way to show how the person is qualified.

Paragraph 4: Summary Write a brief summary of why you are recommending the person. Mention that you "highly recommend" the person or that you "recommend without reservation" or something similar.

Paragraph 5: Conclusion Offer to share more information and let the reader know how to contact you (phone, email, etc.) for a follow-up conversation.

Letter Closing End your letter with a formal letter closing and your name and title. If you are mailing a printed letter, include your signature underneath your typed name: 

Signature (for hard copy letter)

If you’re sending an email, include your contact information in your signature. 

It is a good idea to review recommendation letter examples and templates before you write a recommendation letter or a request for a letter. They can help you decide what kind of content you should include in your document.

A letter template also helps you with the layout of your letter, such as how many paragraphs to include, and how to sign the letter. Templates also show you what elements you need to include in your letter, such as your contact information.

While recommendation letter examples, templates, and guidelines are a great starting point, always tailor a letter to fit the particular situation

Download the recommendation letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

The Balance

Recommendation Letter Example (Text Version)

Brian Smith 123 Main Street Anytown, CA 12345 555-555-5555

March 9, 2021

Emma Johnson Owner Café Bistro 72 Dock Street Pacifica, Oregon 97233

Dear Ms. Johnson,

Daniel Williams worked as a server and manager at Central College’s student café under my supervision for seven semesters, beginning in Spring 2019.

Over that time, I was consistently impressed with his customer service and people management skills, as well as his dedication and good humor. I've often said that if I could clone Daniel, I'd never have to worry about staffing problems again. He's a truly gifted server, fast on his feet, and able to remember complicated orders without using an order pad.

He’s also an innovator. Thanks to his suggestions, we revamped the café menu last year to focus on the most popular dishes and dropped some expensive, time-consuming menu items. The result was a 10% increase in profits.

Our customers love him. More than one has suggested that Daniel become a “super senior,” so that he can stay with us next year. Alas, he’s graduating on schedule, with highest honors and a boatload of references to attest to his skill, hard work, and talent. I’m honored to be one of them.

I enthusiastically recommend Daniel for the position of server/manager in your café. If you have any specific questions about Daniel’s experience and skills, I’m happy to help. Please call me at 555-555-5555.

Brian Smith

Student Coordinator

Central College Café

A character reference is a recommendation written by someone who can attest to one’s character. These letters may be needed for people applying to join an association or purchase property.

They can be used as an alternative to a professional reference for someone who doesn't have work experience, and they may also be required for jobs that require a high level of trustworthiness.

Who To Ask for a Character Reference

If you have limited work experience (or worry you will get a negative reference from your former employer), you might ask someone to write you a character reference. This might help balance out a negative employer reference.

Consider asking a friend, neighbor, volunteer or club leader, colleague, or other people who may never have employed you, but can speak to who you are as a person.

What To Include in a Character Reference

If you are asked to write a character reference, focus on the person’s character traits and abilities. You can provide examples from personal interactions with that individual.

Download the character reference letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

Character Reference Letter Example (Text Version)

Jane Lee 330 Chestnut Street Kerry Springs, Massachusetts 01006

February 3, 2023

Sandra Gomez Program Director Kids at Play, Inc. Centertown, New Hampshire 03225

Dear Ms. Gomez,

Before I had the pleasure of working with Liz Dwyer on our neighborhood cleanup committee, I was her next-door neighbor for 10 years. It didn’t surprise me at all when she was the youngest person to show up for our initial organizational meeting or when she volunteered to take notes and spearheaded the playground project. 

Liz is a very special young person, the kind that gives you hope for the future. It’s not just that she’s organized and dependable, although she is. It’s that she has passion, drive, and a deep optimism for what’s possible. I’ve seen firsthand how she uses that optimism to inspire others and help them see the possibilities in an empty lot or rundown corner. 

I’ve also been impressed with Liz’s growth as an artist. Since she started at Eastern College, her talent has grown. She has used her new skills to improve our neighborhood, rallying the local kids to help her make a mosaic wall for the new playground. 

I know she would be a bright light in your arts program, inspiring and guiding the kids in your care just as she has the kids on our block. I enthusiastically recommend her for the job. Please feel free to reach out to me at or (413)555-6078 with any questions. 

Best regards,

Jane Lee Director, Chestnut Street Block Association

A reference list is a page with a list of your references and their contact information. Send this letter as part of your job application if it is requested. Employers who ask for a reference list might call or email the people on that list and ask them for more information about you.

When creating your reference list, be sure to first ask permission from each person on your list. Not only is this polite, but this will give each person time to prepare a response for the employer. Make sure you provide all the necessary contact information for each person.

What should a student’s letter of recommendation include?

A letter of recommendation for a student should describe their positive qualities, including their academic achievements, interpersonal skills, work ethic, and character. To be effective, the letter should focus on skills and qualifications that are most valuable in the job or program for which the student is applying. 

How long should a recommendation letter be?

A recommendation letter should be at least a few paragraphs long, typically a page or two in length. It should contain specifics that illustrate why the subject is a good candidate for the job or position they’re seeking. The recommender should unreservedly endorse the subject of the letter. 

Georgetown University Center for Research and Fellowships. " Do's and Don'ts of Writing Recommendation Letters ."

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

How to write a letter of recommendation that strengthens a student’s college application

View of person's hands on laptop keyboard

You may be asked to write a recommendation for students during their college application process. As students hope for an early decision in their favor and, often, financial aid, a well-written recommendation can give them a powerful advantage in today’s competitive environment.

What's the purpose of a letter of recommendation?

University of Cincinnati Admissions representatives review thousands of applications each year, most of them from academically qualified candidates. A strong recommendation letter can make a student stand out from the other applicants, and ultimately tip the needle in their favor. UC admissions reviews applicants holistically, so all letters of recommendation are considered in a student’s application.

Recommendation do’s

The best recommendation letters provide some idea of who the person is — the whole person. Is the student intellectually curious, articulate or creative, do they have positive character traits?

How to structure a letter of recommendation

This is a business letter, so it should have a business structure, and be no longer than one page.

Here’s what should be included in a letter of recommendation:

The body of the letter

Many counselors recommend beginning with a statement of how you know the student (did you teach them in a subject, coach them in a sport or supervise them in an internship?) and for how long you’ve known them. Use the student’s full name in the first mention, then just the first name. Then, in two paragraphs, include specifics such as these:

Direct recommendation

Conclude with a sincere statement recommending the student to the specific college or university. If the student is sending the letter to a single institution, mention the school in your conclusion.

The closing

Using the student’s full name again, encourage the college to contact you with any further questions. Close with “Best regards,” and include your title and school after your typed name and signature.

A memorable letter of recommendation can go a long way toward helping students reach their academic and life goals.

Featured image at top: Colleen Kelley/University of Cincinnati

Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts

writing letter of recommendation for student

Writing Letters of Recommendation for Students

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

The resources in this section are designed as a quick guide to writing effective letters of recommendation. It is specifically for the high school teachers and guidance counselors who may be asked to write letters of recommendations for students.

The Purpose of Letters of Recommendation

Recommendation letters are an important piece of the college application. The Princeton Review writes that “competitive colleges use the letter of recommendation to assess [a student’s] passions, goals, and character. They want more than just a statistic.”

As a potential recommendation writer, you are providing an important and integral service for your college-bound student. A good recommendation letter brings the applicant to life on the page. However, writing such a letter can be challenging if you are unaware of the conventions. What follows are some guidelines for high school teachers and guidance counselors for writing good recommendation letters, including knowing what to expect or ask from the student requesting a letter, how to incorporate sensitive or negative information, and what format a letter of recommendation should follow.

How to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student: Teacher’s Guide + Samples

Learn how to write a letter of recommendation for a student using my Teacher’s Guide + Samples. Write a letter of recommendation that makes your student shine.   Know an amazing student who deserves some recognition? Let us know over at collegeessay…

We also have Rec Letter Guides for:

Written by Alexis Allison , College Essay Guy Team

When I was a high school English teacher, my greatest nightmare was that my students would form a mob around me and overpower me (thank goodness it only happened once).

Even so, the same overwhelming feeling of angst bore down upon me every year around application season. As your list of recommendation letters for students continues to grow, maybe you can understand.

But fear no more! We’ll show you why writing strong recommendation letters for your students can be one more way to serve them in their future academics. While we’re at it, we’ll also walk you through how letters of recommendation for teachers differ from the counselor letter; then, we’ll offer you two different schools of thought on how to write recommendation letters for students.

Both approaches work well, so we’ll show you how each is done—with examples for your reading pleasure.

In the spirit of this topic, we’ve gathered advice from a number of experts, including:

Chris Reeves, school counselor and member of the NACAC board of directors

Trevor Rusert, director of college counseling at Chadwick International in South Korea

Michelle Rasich, director of college counseling at Rowland Hall

Kati Sweaney, senior assistant dean of admission at Reed College

Sara Urquidez, executive director of Academic Success Program, a nonprofit that promotes a college-going culture in Dallas/Fort Worth high schools

Martin Walsh, school counselor and former assistant dean of admission at Stanford

Michelle McAnaney, educational consultant and founder of The College Spy

And I’m Alexis, a high school English teacher-turned college counselor-turned journalist. Ethan (the College Essay Guy) and I serve as your synthesizers and storytellers in this guide, which we’ve chunked into a few parts:  


Why Writing a Teacher Recommendation Letter is Important

What’s the point?

Well, most of us became teachers to actually help students (although grading is a crackerjack good time, too). We know these letters take time and energy, and can sometimes feel thankless. But a well-crafted teacher recommendation letter can truly make a difference for your student. And for students who come from low-income homes or have especially tough circumstances, it’s the opportunity to advocate on their behalf.

Recommendation letters have some serious clout in the admissions process. Some colleges consider letters of recommendation pretty darn important—above class rank, extracurricular activities and, at least when it comes to the counselor recommendation, demonstrated interest (dun dun dun!).

Check out the results of the 2017 NACAC “State of College Admission” survey :

nacac admissions survey 2019.png

Our buddy Chris Reeves, a member of NACAC ’s board of directors, has another way to read this table: “If you consider ‘considerable importance’ AND ‘moderate importance,’ the teacher letter is also more important than demonstrated interest.”

Basically, if it comes down to your student and another candidate—all else being equal—your recommendation letter can get your student in or keep them out.

And, according to a presentation co-led by our friend Sara Urquidez at a 2017 AP conference, rec letters can also help decide who gets scholarships and who gets into honors programs. All told, they’re kind of a big deal.

As teachers, you provide a key source of information about something that test scores and transcripts can’t—your student’s role in the classroom. If you’ve ever seen or written a counselor recommendation letter, you’ll notice some similarities.

But know this: While the format for these two letters of recommendation may be very much the same, the content should differ .

Here’s how:

Teachers, according to Martin Walsh (former assistant dean of admission at Stanford ) and a presentation co-led by Sara Urquidez (executive director of Academic Success Program), your recommendation letter should describe:

the impact this student has on the classroom

the “mind” of the student

the student’s personality, work ethic and social conduct

On the other hand, a counselor’s letter should describe:

the student’s abilities in context, over time—how do they fit within the school’s overall demographics, curriculum, test scores?

special circumstances beyond the classroom that impact the student

But does anyone actually read my recommendation letter? (Or am I just shouting into the dark, dark void?)

letter of recommendation for student

Yes! (To the first question) Your letter will be read and rated, sometimes by multiple admissions reps at each school.

What do I mean rated?

Well, your letter may get a sort of grade that will (hopefully) bump your student up in points. Here’s a rubric and some instructions admissions representatives used to follow to assess recommendation letters for students (courtesy of Martin Walsh).

Where did Martin work again? Stanford.

(PSA: The rubric is about 15 years old, but Martin thinks it can still shed some insight on the evaluation process.)

“In general, our candidates receive good, solid support. For many of our private school applicants, hyperbole can be more the rule than the exception; guard against over-rating such comments. Note if there is consistency among the recommenders. Do they corroborate or contradict one another?

Watch out for the “halo effect,” where a parent or other relative of the applicant may be on staff at the same or another school or be a VIP in that community. Watch for recommenders who use the same basic text for every student for whom they write, or who write inappropriate comments. Do not penalize a student whose recommender’s writing style is not strong. Don’t penalize a student for what is not said. Some teachers/counselors are better recommendation writers than others.

The rating should reflect both the check marks and the prose, and also should reflect the overall enthusiasm the recommender has for the candidate.”

rating image

Now that you know the key differences in content, and that your letters WILL be read, it’s time to dig into the nitty gritty.

The DOs and DON’Ts of Writing a Teacher Recommendation Letter for Students

We asked Kati Sweaney, senior assistant dean of admission at Reed College (a woman who’s read thousands of rec letters, phew!), to give us some know-how. Here’s her top list of DOs and DON’Ts for teachers when it comes to the recommendation letter: DO:

Tell me a story. Kati says, “It's the character stuff that I really need to hear from you … I need to know what kind of community member I'm getting—you're my best (sometimes only) source.”

Pick specific descriptors and back them up with evidence; avoid cliches like “hard-working,” “passionate,” and “team-player.”

Show me good student work. Copy and paste an especially well-writ paragraph from your student’s best essay, or a screenshot of clean coding they did in class. Here’s Kati: “Be brief in how you set it up, but it's cool to let the student speak for themselves.”

Ask permission if you're going to reveal something private about the student (they have a learning disability, their mother has cancer, they struggle with depression).

Write your autobio. The letter’s about the student, not you.

Repeat a student’s resume. Admissions counselors get a copy of that, too. Kati says, “I know this comes from a desire to portray the student as well-rounded and also to pad out what you're worried will be a short letter, but trust me: Two paragraphs actually specific to the student are so much better than a page of puff.”

Address letters to a specific school. It’s awkward if Stanford reps are reading your letter and it talks about how much the student loves USC.

Recycle letters—even those you wrote in previous years. Here’s Kati: “I read high schools in groups—so, if I get five applications from Montgomery High, I read all five of them right in a row. It does your students zero favors if I see you are not writing them individual letters. And next year, I will also be the person who reads letters from Montgomery High.”

So, how do we go about writing them?

As we said in the beginning, we’re going to walk you through two different approaches. The first we call the “traditional” approach.

If you’ve ever written or received a recommendation letter in your life, it’s probably looked like this one. The second is a newer, more innovative approach; its creators call it the “organized narrative.”

Intrigued? Read on.

The Traditional Approach to Writing a Recommendation Letter for a Student

This is your typical letter of rec. It looks, well, like a letter. Long paragraphs. Transition words and phrases. Indentations. That sort of thing. It’s a tried and true method.

So you’ve probably seen these. But how do you actually write one well?

Our friend Sara Urquidez, executive director of Academic Success Program, has written a detailed set of instructions for these rec letters—broken into three parts: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.

(Remember, this is one way to do it. It’s great! And we’ll also show you some examples. But, if you want to jump ahead to the newer approach—the Organized Narrative—be our guest.)

letter of recommendation for student

To Whom It May Concern:


Hook: Start with a simile/metaphor, an absolute statement, a surprising fact, a colorful characterization.

The first line should provide the full name of the person that you are recommending.

Make the letter general so that it can be recycled for scholarships (i.e. do not put “the student would be great at your campus” because it might be used for a scholarship).

State how long you have known the student and in what context.

Discuss the student’s work in your classroom.

Is it timely, organized, creative, thorough, neat, insightful, unusual?

Describe how the student interacts with peers and adults/learning environment.

Are they liked? Do they chose to associate with good people? Do they have good people skills?

Do people, especially adults, trust them?

Are they kind/sympathetic/considerate?

Leadership: Do they lead by example or do they take charge? Do they work well in small groups? Participate actively and/or respectfully in whole class discussion? Work well independently? Understand how to break down complex tasks? Suggest modifications to assignments that make them more meaningful? Support weaker students?

Describe the things that you will remember about the student.

Go beyond diligence and intelligence: Talk about humor, courage, kindness, patience, enthusiasm, curiosity, flexibility, aesthetics, independence, courtesy, stubbornness, creativity, etc.

ALWAYS talk about work ethic if you can.

ALWAYS talk about integrity, at least in passing, if you can.

Quirks are GOOD. Individuality is GOOD. It’s okay to talk about a student being obsessively into anime, or John Green novels, or Wikipedia. Talk about how they always doodle, always carry a book, play fantasy cricket. It’s good to talk about how a student deals with being different—because of their race, their sexual orientation, their religion, their disability. Do not shy away from these things.

Talk about why you will MISS THEM.

Describe how the student reacts to setbacks/challenges/feedback.

Detail any academic obstacles overcome, even if it is partially embarrassing, negative or controversial.

Do they take criticism well? Do they react well to a lower than expected grade? Did they ever deal with a crisis or emergency well?

How do they handle academic challenges? Come to tutoring? Request extra work? If a particular area showed marked improvement over the year, explain what the student did to make it happen.

Do they ask for help when needed? Do they teach themselves? Do they monitor their own learning? Do they apply feedback/learn from mistakes?

Provide evidence and examples of personal qualities.

Physical descriptions can be very useful here. If this feels strange to you, Sara notes that it’s a way to make students (who may look like everyone else on paper) memorable: “When you can imagine the student who wears a cape and a fedora to school, it makes the 36 and the 4.0 a lot more interesting … we found this was a way to breathe life into applications that might have gotten lost in the shuffle by making the students human to the reader.”

Think about anecdotes the student has told about their lives, ways they describe themselves, about papers/projects completed, about tutoring patterns, about the time they did something dramatic in class.

Reference significant projects or academic work, especially those that set a new bar for the class.

Identify the student’s engagement, level of intellectual vitality, and learning style in your class.

If you teach English/history: You MUST address how well they read. Complex things? Archaic things? Do they see nuance and tone and subtext? You MUST also address how well they write. Is it organized? Creative? Logical? Intuitive? Functional? Do they have a strong voice? Can they be funny? Formal?.

If you teach math/science: You MUST address how the student analyzes information/handles abstraction. Are they good at categorizing? At visualizing? At explaining? How do they tackle a new topic or strange problem? Think about what their homework/tests LOOK LIKE when you grade them. What does that tell you about how they think?

Include only first-hard knowledge of extracurricular involvement. No lists, please.

Extracurriculars only matter because they show something about the student—a passion, a skill, a talent. The extracurricular is going away—what will they take with them? What will they bring to campus?

Extracurricular achievements are best used as examples to demonstrate earlier points, not as a goal/paragraph in themselves.

If you are a sponsor, think beyond the activity itself—think about reacting to setbacks, supporting team members, organizing events, making suggestions that changed how the team/group did things, setting an example, and growth over time.

Begin with an unequivocal statement of recommendation. “[Full Name] carries my strongest recommendation.”

State what the student will bring to an institution (NOT why the student deserves acceptance).

Summarize the student’s qualities and accomplishments that you wish to emphasize.

End with an emotional comment—that you will miss them, that you have learned from them, that you are sorry to see them go, that they are your favorite, etc.

Final tips from Sara

Have someone edit/review your letter of recommendation. Your school’s college counselor is a great place to start. From Sara: “You'd be surprised how many people don't actually know what to write/not write in these letters, particularly in schools without a strong culture of recommendation writing … The back reading of recommendation letters by other faculty members allows us to prevent saying the same things over and over and cover more information as required.”

Let the student know if you have chosen to include any negative or sensitive information so that they remember to address it in their application.

Sign the letter—and put it on letterhead. (If you don’t know how to sign something digitally and don’t want to go through the whole print-sign-scan thing, we found this 3-minute guide easy-peasy to follow .)

Avoid using ambiguous language and hyperbolic clichés. (All praise should be supported with specific examples.)

Ultimately, be specific and detailed. It should be clear that you know and like this student.

What do these letters actually look like?

Sara has gathered a slate of strong teacher rec examples that work for different kinds of students. We’ve included them below:

Example Recommendation Letter - The Traditional Approach: The Student Who’s Faced Adversity

To download this example, click here

To whom it may concern:

Jordan has a lot on her mind and more on her plate. When I met her, she didn’t: she was 14, a freshman in my English class, and absolutely irrepressible. She was game for anything: she made friends with everyone, she joined clubs, and started one when she saw a need. She aced every assignment and always turned in homework that showed careful, thoughtful work. She found a boyfriend, and then found out she was better off without him. She was a firecracker, and clearly among the strongest in her class.

It was clear, then, why she was good with chaos: she lived in a tiny little house with her parents and four sisters, and when a baby brother (finally) appeared during her freshman year, she rolled with that, too: my own son is just a year or so older, and she and I would commiserate about teething and late nights and diapers. From those conversations, I realized that Jordan has the gift and burden of being a practical, sympathetic person—sympathetic enough to be driven to help those in need, and practical enough to see what can be done. So when her mom struggled with a house full of babies and a job, it was always Jordan who put down her homework to go get dinner started or to wipe a snotty nose or to fold a load of laundry. The older girls had their sights on the big world and the younger ones were too little to help—it tended to fall on her.

It was clearly a house with a lot of love and not quite enough resources, and while she had more responsibilities than I wished, I mostly admired how well she handled it.

All that changed spring of her sophomore year when her father died. Being a teacher means watching this happen once every few years. The emotional impact is, of course, brutal, but usually it’s relatively simple: the issue is grief, and time does help. But they have six children in the house, 3 not yet in school, and that’s not a simple problem. It’s a world of responsibility and expense, and it’s not something that time can soothe. I cried when I realized she was working part time, because I know how hard she works at school, and I could imagine the grind of her life each day—from the minute she wakes up until she goes to bed, there is an endless need for a pair of hands at home, and then she goes to school to face a brutal academic schedule. Adding a shift at a fast food restaurant before heading home to juggle toddlers and preschoolers and to somehow get her homework done seemed beyond all reason—but the reason was the simple economic need to avoid being a burden on the family, and to help out with some other expenses. I hugged her when she managed to save up enough to quit during AP exams season. I felt like a weight lifted off me—even the sympathy weight was rough —what was the real one like? Of course, she went right back to work when school let out, and when she went back and asked for her job back, they promoted her to shift manager. She spent the summer running a crew of adult full-time fast food workers, and she saved enough to be able to quit for the school year.

I could not do what Jordan does. But she does it. Every damn day. I don’t know that it ever occurs to her that she could let anything go—she passed most of her sophomore AP exams a month after burying her dad, and had an even stronger performance her junior year despite having no time to even think. She never misses an assignment, and I wish they looked more rushed, because I’d feel less guilty about assigning them. Her grades have stayed good—not as good as they would have been, I think, but good—and she’s continued to take the most challenging course load we offer, including the marathon AP Physics/AP Chemistry course we call SuperLab. She’s heavily involved with YWISE, a STEM research program through the University of Texas at Dallas. More tellingly, she’s maintained a social life—she keeps up with her friends, worries about their problems, gossips about boys, and never, ever complains. She still makes it to meetings of the Girl Club she helped found, to dances and to socials. She still indulges in blue or pink hair dye when she can. She’s still a vital part of our community.

But she always looks tired to me, and a little underfed, and it breaks my heart every day.

Jordan is my favorite in that group—she was extraordinary before, and the tragedy of her sophomore year has tempered her into steel. I want, so desperately, for her to have a chance to go away, to apply all that strength and creativity and initiative to changing the world instead of to serving customers and wiping snotty noses. Jordan will be fine, regardless—she’s proved that these last two years. But we as a society need the kind of person she will grow into if placed into an environment that will point her talents towards targets worthy of them.

She carries my absolute strongest recommendation. I am sure there is some concern that she might have family obligations that will keep her from being able to accept a place in a residential program, but I’ve discussed logistics with her and her mother and I am confident that the family is prepared to live without her in the immediate household. I do expect she will have to work in the summers. If you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Amanda Ashmead, Humanities Chair

Example Recommendation Letter - The Traditional Approach: The High-Achieving Student

Taylor managed to find the one school in America where he’d be the odd man out, and he was as good for us as we were for him. He bridges some very different worlds found in highly selective institutions, and I think he’d be a fabulous resource for any such community.

On one hand, Taylor is brilliant: I’ve been in advanced academics and working with extraordinarily talented students for 15 years, and Taylor is, without a doubt, among the strongest students I’ve ever worked with. His faculty for language, in particular, is extraor dinary: he’s one of those analytical/verbal people—he thinks like a philosopher. He can read anything, however archaic or abstract, and never misses nuance or tone. He enjoys cleverness with language—not the easy cleverness of puns but the intricate interplay of sound and meaning that make a sentence or a phase perfect. He writes flawlessly—his natural voice is straightforward and organized and efficient. His scores reveal a similar aptitude for math and science, though I really think even there he’s a word guy—his thinking, his understanding, is verbal in nature. His work ethic is beyond reproach: every assignment done flawlessly, tests studied for, cello practiced, community involvement accomplished. He makes busy look easy.

On the other hand, Taylor is defined by his Evangelical Protestant faith, and he very much belongs to a suburban, affluent Evangelical community. I’m talking church Sunday morning and Wednesday night, Young Life and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This is a pretty common community in America, but it’s not common at this school, for a variety of reasons: our student body is poor, urban, and minority. We are a STEM magnet with a decidedly secular feel. What with one thing or another, we have more openly gay atheist boys than evangelical Christians at this school, and more kids would admit to being undocumented than being pro-life. When 14-year old Taylor got here, straight from a little parochial white-flight school in the suburbs, it must have felt like he’d arrived in Gomorrah, but with a Freshman Calculus class. But instead of running for it (which I think he seriously considered), Taylor adapted—and the way he adapted is a testimony to his character and the key to why he will be such an important asset in an academic community.

For one thing, Taylor always brings his full intelligence and analytical ability to bear on his faith. There are strains of Evangelical Protestantism that discourage active and sincere questioning, but that is not Taylor’s way. He questions everything, and he always embraces nuance and tone. So when he was suddenly immersed in an environment that challenged rather than reinforced his faith, he didn’t feel threatened—rather, he appreciated the chance to really explore his own beliefs in a new context. Furthermore, his analytical nature means he is able to compartmentalize and to appreciate people that are truly different than he is. I, myself, could not be more different than Taylor in this way—I pretty clearly lean far left, and I know I’ve used cuss words in front of him he probably never even heard before—but we’ve always had a relationship defined by mutual respect and an honest willingness to learn from each other.

Second, he’s a really nice young man who makes friends readily. I’ve watched him develop deep friendships with students so very different from him—racially and socioeconomically, of course, but also ideologically. He has really high and specific ethical standards for himself, but he doesn’t worry about other people. He’s used these last four years to learn about worlds he didn’t know existed, and it’s made him humble and thoughtful. We’ve had other, similar students in his position that didn’t react as gracefully: suddenly being the minority is jarring, and some students react with resentment. Taylor, though, understands his own situation is a shadow of what many of his classmates face in other contexts, and rather than become bitter, he’s become sympathetic and wise.

In many ways, college is traditionally the place where students like Taylor have the opportunity to learn what Taylor already knows—how to get along and work with people that are different than themselves. Taylor will be a catalyst for that process: he can move comfortably in literally any company, and he can translate between very different people—and teach them to connect to each other. If I were putting together a group of students for a long term research program and I was worried about group cohesion, Taylor is the person I’d select because he would be the model and the architect for mutual respect and cooperation. Also, he could write the paper.

Taylor thinks he’s going to be an engineer. No one here believes him. He’ll get the engineering degree, but it’s clear to us he’ll end up doing something larger than that: his skill set is too large, his interests and passions too broad, his gifts for working with people too profound. I don’t know exactly what he will do—entrepreneur, author, large-scale project manager?---but it will be remarkable. He’ll be a huge asset to your community from day one, and be a credit to the institution for decades after. He carries my very strongest recommendation. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Example Recommendation Letter - The Traditional Approach: The Introverted Student

Somewhere on your campus you have a professor who will be really glad you accepted Taylor. He’s that kind of student—the sort to be liked and respected by his classmates, but really appreciated by the professors who will see what is so clear to any adult paying attention—Taylor has the soul of an academic. Right now, he thinks he’s getting a degree in a STEM field and then a job, but that’s just because he’s the first in his family to go to college and he doesn’t even know the world he’s best suited to even exists. He’ll get the STEM degree, but he won’t stop there, and he’ll find his place in the world where complex thought justifies itself.

Taylor is brilliant. I don’t know the absolute number of National Merit Semi-Finalists that are poor, first-generation children of immigrants coming from a non-English speaking home, but I’m sure it’s appallingly low. He can read anything—not just decode, but understand nuance and tone and context. He writes organized, effective prose. Taylor has barely begun to tap his own potential—even here, I’m not sure he’s ever really had to put his head down and work. Outside projects, like Robots and Academic Decathlon, have given him the opportunity to really extend himself, but even then he’s been working off of someone else’s blueprint, and that’s not the same. This is one that is going to explode a few years into a true intellectual.

Taylor likes to talk, but not in a large class. He’s best in a small group, or during office hours: he’s the sort that thinks so fast that he needs to speak slowly—any question posed to him evokes not a response, but a mental avalanche of responses, objections, counter-responses, analogies, and implications that he needs to process before he talks, needs to almost physically keep himself in check to insure that he isn’t leaving his listener far behind. His essays were fantastic— Taylor at his best when he has time and space to really develop an idea. While Taylor certainly has a breadth of knowledge to draw upon, in his heart he is a deep thinker—he wants to take ideas and see how far he can go with them. He’s just the sort that thrives on really complex and intricate research.

It would be easy to mistake Taylor for being a little cold. He worries he is a little cold, because it is very clear to him that he has more control over his external emotional reactions than the average teenager. But he’s not—he’s cerebral, definitely, and he values rationality, but he also has a great sense of humor: Taylor was the only kid in class that caught my most sophisticated jokes, and his subtle half-grin of approval always made me feel like I’d accomplished something. He can be incredibly intense when he is intrigued by a new idea, and he knows how to listen, really listen, when he’s hearing something new. He also can be moved to anger on rare occasions—he doesn’t yell or wave his arms, but Taylor is sensitive to cruelty and thoughtless ignorance. He is well liked, and has a circle of friends, but he struggles to connect easily to his peers as a whole—he’s not given to adolescent banter. But when he feels safe—when he doesn’t worry he’s talking over someone’s head or boring the life out of them--he’s fantastic: warm, engaged, thoughtful and willing to listen. He likes this school and he likes his classmates, but he hasn’t quite found his people yet. I’m pretty sure that he will find them in the world of academia.

Taylor is really special. I am quite fond of him, and absolutely convinced he will make meaningful contributions to the stock of human knowledge. He carries my strongest recommendation.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Example Recommendation Letter - The Traditional Approach: The Middle-of-the-Pack Student

I have such a soft spot for Jordan. In the year he was in my AP Literature class, I really learned to respect his unusual ability to reflect on his own life, and to use his own self-reflection to set goals and expectations that are meaningful and appropriate to who he is, not merely a response to others’ expectations.

In most any high school in America, Jordan would be an academic superstar. Here, at an exclusive STEM magnet, he’s very solid middle. This is a difficult adjustment for many students, and many of them handle it poorly. They make excuses, or they get discouraged, or they start slacking off so that they can pretend they never wanted success in the first place. Jordan did none of that. He recognized pretty early that he was going to have to work very hard just to keep up with the pack, and so he buckled down and did that. Again, I want to reiterate that “middle of the pack” is still more advanced than what any normal school offers—not just taking and passing multiple AP STEM classes, but opting into challenging humanities electives as well.—but here, that feels like a lot of work to be nothing special. Jordan wasn’t at all discouraged about that—his goal has always been self-improvement, not using others as a yardstick. In one of his college essays, he talked about how maturity is about endurance, and putting one foot in front of the other even when it seems like the ultimate goal is out of reach. Jordan figured that one out entirely on his own, and I tend to think a young man who understands that simple truth is well nigh unstoppable.

While Jordan might have been middle of the pack in his STEM courses, he was one of my better English students. His observations and insights into characters in great literature were always impressive, and grew better and better throughout the year as he learned to appreciate the medium more. I always noticed that he was unusually sensitive to character’s internal struggles and doubts, their unspoken motivations. His essays and classroom commentary often presented very clever ideas that were totally unrelated to my own interpretations or previous class discussions. I think this is an outgrowth of his tendency to intensively reflect on his own motivations and internal processes. His own personal aesthetic is a wonderful combination of STEM-nerd, gentle vaquero, and small town friendly. That’s absolutely something he constructed himself out of his own reflections and what suits him, because nowhere in the world combines all those world-views.

Jordan is also a very fluent writer. The structure of AP exams works against him here—Jordan is a think-write-think-write type, and AP exams are about disgorging facts and analysis in a rough draft, showing you can produce the ideas in a hurry and assuming you can refine them later. For Jordan, refining is part of the thinking process and he can’t do the one without the other. I think this held him back significantly, and that he will really thrive in college where the extended researched argument becomes the standard product. Jordan’s brain was made for extended researched arguments.

Finally, Jordan is a sweetheart.  He’s so nice, so intensely sympathetic to others.  He’s had some rough knocks in his life—a terrible divorce, and a mother that I think has not coped with that well. He’s been largely on his own in terms of direction—everything he’s accomplished has been the product of his own ambition and ability to figure things out. I am a worrier by nature, but I don’t worry about Jordan Moreno: he’s proven his ability to be successful. I will miss him. Jordan carries my strongest recommendation. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Example Recommendation Letter - The Traditional Approach: The Outlier Student

You look at Jordan’s application, and the story writes itself—fantastic test scores, pathetic grades, weak extracurriculars--anyone would look at those and think “smart, but doesn’t apply himself—will huddle in his dorm playing video games until he flunks out. Next!” That’s the obvious, easy interpretation—it’s how a lot of us interpreted him, for years—but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Please, please, please take a deeper look at this application and consider giving him the chance he needs to demonstrate the amazing young man that he is.

First, bluntly, Jordan is a victim of sustained abuse. CPS has been called, the situation has been mitigated, we are watching him, but by the time we became aware of this, much of the damage had been done. As a freshman, he sat in my class with a flat affect and refused to answer questions or do homework. He often looked exhausted. I assumed---we all assumed—he was a student who really didn’t want to be in our specialized STEM program and he was committing academic suicide so that he could return to his home school. I did ask if there was anything wrong at home, but he very convincingly blew that off. It wasn’t until his sophomore year that the situation was revealed to us, and even then, it came in bits and pieces—he kept talking about “corporal punishment” and really didn’t seem to understand that bruises up and down your arms and knees stiff from hours of kneeling were not a “dark quirk of culture”--which was how he rationalized this to himself. The abuse came entirely at the hands of his father, and while the physical punishment has stopped, it is still not a happy or healthy household. Jordan has learned some hard lessons at his father’s hands, and they continue to affect him.

First, Jordan is a stubborn son-of a-bitch. He has a perfect poker face—I think you could cut his fingers off and he wouldn’t flinch. That stoic face is his way of deflecting others, of avoiding notice or interaction, but it’s also his way of not giving in to his father—in a situation where he had no control and no way out, he at least made sure not to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing him hurt. I admire that in him, but it worked against him here: we didn’t reach out as quickly as we should have, we didn’t push him enough, because we didn’t really think he gave a damn about anything. It’s a mistake that haunts me. But at the same time, I know that rock-solid perseverance will be an asset to him. His perspective on what counts as a “challenge” is entirely different from other students his own age, and while I’m sure he will face real challenges as a student and as an adult, he will have the unimaginable luxury of being able to respond to those challenges, to act. After what he has been through, he will always see that opportunity as a gift to be taken advantage of.

There are other lessons I wish he hadn’t learned so well: he’s been taught that he isn’t entitled to anything—not love, not support, not safety. It stops him from asking for help when he should, and it’s going to be a long path for him to learn that he’s allowed to expect things from the people that love him. He’s learned that strength is about enduring, not advancing—his hero is his mother, a war refugee who has fought her whole life to survive. His own situation is exasperated by his father’s emphasis on success: every ambition Jordan ever developed—from spelling bee to karate to academic success—turned into a justification for rage and abuse when he “failed”--and it didn’t matter how far he advanced, as long as there was anyone anywhere who achieved at a higher level, he was made a target. I have no doubt Jordan will be successful at school, in the sense that he will graduate in 4 years with reasonably good grades. I hope for more, though— that he will find a community that teaches him that it’s safe to want things, to fight for them.

He’s very slowly opening up to a few of us, and we’re discovering a wonderful young man. Even when he appeared to be a sullen 14-year old, I liked him, though I couldn’t have told you why—mostly I liked the way his face and body language reacted when we discussed literature, because it was the sort of reaction that showed me he was sensitive, sympathetic, and sophisticated in his worldview. He also genuinely loves learning: his SAT scores show you that he’s plenty capable, but the AP scores show more—that even when he couldn’t do homework, he always wanted to learn and understand. Even when he was staring off into space, he was paying attention. He’s passed seven AP exams already--and the two he didn’t pass were taught by teachers who are . . . strongly authoritarian, which did not encourage his best. He has a fantastic sense of humor; it’s hard to make him smile—but when he does, it’s in response to something truly clever.

Jordan is going to break this cycle and turn into the sort of person who speaks out against the sort of hell he faced. He has so, so much to give if only we can get him to a safe space where he can undo some of the damage done to him and start to rebuild himself. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I mean that.

Another Outlier Student Example

Taylor is a bit of an anachronism. He’s been raised by his grandparents using a model that was honestly a little old-fashioned when they were raising their own kids: it’s all early to bed, early to rise, plenty of chores, and you aren’t going to spend all summer sitting around young man, you can be chopping wood and mowing lawns to save for college. There was also a great deal of unconditional love and mutual respect. Together, that combination has shaped a strong-minded, hard-working, ethical and rational young man who manages to be both socially awkward and oddly charming.

Taylor has an interesting brain. He soaks up information like a sponge, reading at the very highest level: he has an enormous, robust vocabulary and is comfortable with long and archaic texts. He reads the way a person reads when raised by grandparents who didn’t believe in screentime and who were happy to find him some chores if he were bored. He talks all that information and files it away in some crazy system, the cognitive equivalent of a Mad Scientist’ journals. I know this is true because he makes connections that are at times brilliant, at times spurious, and always interesting. He processes everything through quirky analogies, odd comparisons, and non-intuitive connections. When the connections are spurious, he’s very polite and very willing to listen to the counter-argument, but never blindly accepts someone else’s point of view—Taylor has to come to his own understanding. Luckily, all that information and all those connections mean that his own understanding is very complex, and while he at times gets lost in the forest of his own vast mind, he always finds his way back.

Taylor’s incredible ability to read is matched by a strong narrative voice: he’s a good writer. Here, again, there’s a tendency to organize information in a way that’s somewhat counterintuitive—the order that makes sense to him, his sense of what is important and what is detail—is sometimes a little non-typical, but there’s an undeniable brilliance there and a strong natural voice. I always genuinely looked forward to reading his essays. He’s much more interested in ideas than in people: even in literary analysis he always wanted to quickly bypass questions of character and motivation and get into the really complex abstract ideas underlying the personal.

Taylor is a hard worker with absolutely no expectations of short-term gratification. He’s very willing to set a long term goal and work toward it in stages, and supremely confident that if the plan is good and he does what he needs to do, it will work out in the end—however far away that is. He was raised in a household where hard-work and self-reliance and general competency were important virtues, and he’s adopted that worldview without hesitation.

Taylor would be a wonderful addition to any academic community. He’s absolutely academically on par with any of his peers, but his background, his frame of reference, his sense of how things connect is so unique that he can’t help but inspire true intellectual dialogue. He’s patient and polite and respectful and he truly loves to learn. I highly recommend him.

Amanda Ashmead

These are great, but I’d like to shake things up. Is there another way?

Yes! And it’s about dang time.

The Organized Narrative Approach to Writing a Recommendation Letter for a Student

In the 1600s, if you knew Greek and Latin, you could get into Harvard (semper ubi sub ubi, y’all). And while the college application process has changed since then, we’re still using the traditional letter of rec format that Ralph Waldo Emerson used to refer Walt Whitman in the 1860s . In the words of the modern prophet Post Malone, it’s time to make things “better now, better now.”

Our buddy Chris Reeves, his buddy Trevor Rusert, and their colleagues crafted what they call the “organized narrative” style of rec writing, which “allows writers to quickly and effectively draft personal and detailed letters using a hybrid of headers, narratives, and bullet points.” The style is focused and fast—both to read and to write. (Another perk: You won’t have to bother with those persnickety transition sentences. Boom!)

recommendation letter for student

 Below, we show what the format looks like for teachers.

The organized narrative structure is broken into these parts:

Student’s Experience with the Curriculum

Start with a narrative that introduces the class you teach, and your student as a student in that class. Keep this to one or two paragraphs.

Academic and Intellectual Growth

Bullet points, baby. This is where you write, in one-two sentences for each bullet point, about how the student has grown in your class, their strengths and weaknesses, their intellectual vitality, etc.

Personal Qualities

Again, bullet points. What is this student like as a person? What’s their personality? Character? How do they treat their peers? What about them makes them more than simply a “body in a chair” to you?

Final Recommendation

This is the part where you wrap things up in a sentence or two and write just how much you recommend the student.

Need proof it works? Here’s what a few admissions offices had to say about the new style (also taken from a slide at a presentation that Chris and Trevor gave at the 2017 NACAC Conference):

“I really like the format, especially starting with the narrative at the top of the letter—it offers context for the rest of the letter. I like bullet points. I’m very visual that way, given reading 20 apps/day, the less work my brain has to do in a day, the better for me.”

Notre Dame:

“The format is great—it actually helps guide the reader. Even if it goes on to two pages, it doesn’t feel like a two-page letter. The format is nice.”

Providence College:

“The bullet points are very helpful. The writer gets right to the point and is focused on the heading. When reading so many applications, I would prefer this format over the narrative letters.”

University of Richmond:

“We really like it! We’re huge fans of organization that centralizes thoughts and minimizes rambling.”

Washington University in St. Louis:

“It is easy to find what I am looking for. We look for personal qualities and the format is ideal for providing this information in a reader-friendly way. The format highlights a student’s contributions in class, the hallway, etc.”

Example Recommendation Letter - The Organized Narrative Approach

Want to see these teacher letters in the wild? Michelle Rasich, director of college counseling at Rowland Hall, helped curate these examples— feast your eyes .

In a nutshell:

Here’s Chris: “Ultimately, using an organized narrative style of letter eliminates the need for counselors and teachers to worry about things like style, creativity and prose, and allows them to focus on the things that really matter to college admission professionals—relevant information about the student.

Okay, I’m ready to write. But ... what if I don’t know the student very well?

Click here. Send this form to your students or print out the PDF and have them fill it out by hand. #oldschool

That’s a wrap.

Congratulations—and phew! You’ve made it to the end of our guide.

recommendation letter for student

Before you fall over from the mental food baby we’ve given you, we’d love to hear from you. Is there something we’ve overlooked? Something that can make this guide better? Maybe you’ve got another suave rec letter format you’d like to share. Email us at [email protected]

Finally, if you’re feeling inspired and want to learn more about all things college-admissions, we’ve got you covered— find your next free guide here . If you’re still curious, you can also check out the student and counselor versions of this guide. Happy reading!

Want help writing an outstanding college essay? Check out my step-by-step video course FOR FREE  HERE



Watch the lessons on your own or via the live option. 

writing letter of recommendation for student

Creative Writing News

Letter of Recommendation For Students: 10 Sample Recommendation Letters For University Admissions (Tips + Examples + Format)

Congratulations an aspiring student has found you worthy enough to write a letter of recommendation to their prospective university’s admissions committee. .

You know that this is a big deal and that the applicant’s success depends, to some extent, on the quality of this reference letter. But how do you go about writing a letter of recommendation for a student, especially one who wants to get a teaching assistantship?

First things first: what is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation (a reference letter) is a document that describes the professional knowledge and personal qualities of an applicant.

One can also argue that the reference letter is a formal document written in a conservative style and whose top priority is to enlighten and inform the admissions committee about the applicant’s skills and experiences.

At this point, you’re probably wondering: how should you start writing this important letter for a university or college application? Seriously, where should you start?

The first place to start is to understand that letters of reference for university admissions are never generalized.

In fact, a letter of recommendation is:

Listed and enumerated below are more tips and LOR examples that will guide you on how to write a recommendation letter for students’ university admission.

Make Up Your Mind To be An Honest Referee For The Student.

Producing a reference letter that significantly deviates from the truth puts the referee’s reputation at risk. Thus, providing a colleague from the same professional field with an unrealistic description of the candidate can generate problems for both parties.

An academic expert  published a comprehensive guide for writing recommendation letters in the Burroughs Welcome Fund of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

 According to this expert, not everyone is qualified to write a recommendation letter for every student. It is customary to write honest recommendation letters for those:

You can turn down candidates who don’t know well and can hardly vouch for. You can also say no to students who you don’t consider to be a good fit. It is certainly better than writing an undermining letter of recommendation.

Here’s one sample of a reference letter where the recommender shows an infectious enthusiasm for the candidate’s work and clearly wants the candidate to be admitted into the university they’re applying to.

Letter of recommendation samples

A letter of recommendation is by definition a supportive document intended to help the subject secure a spot in an academic program or a job. So please say no if you are not ready to write an honest supportive letter.

Also, if you don’t know the subject well, it might be wise to reject his/her request. Conversely, in case you know the subject well but have reservations of other nature, let him/ her know about this, offering the latter the chance to pick another referee.

Look At Sample Letters of Recommendation for University Admissions.

To write an impressive LOR, you must have a very good idea of what a recommendation letter should look like.

Ask for samples from colleagues or find examples of letters of recommendation online. 

Obviously, the most informative references would be those from a matching specialization.

Here’s one of my favorite letter of recommendation examples. It’s definitely one that checks all the boxes. 

sample of recommendation letter for university admission

Gather Sufficient Information About the Candidate

A reference letter that is too generic and ignores the personality, biography, and interests of the candidate will be regarded very poorly.

To avoid this, ask the candidate to provide the necessary details. According to the Department of Art History of the College of Letters and Sciences of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the following information would be needed in writing a recommendation letter:

Mention The Right Details In The Right Order.

A good letter of recommendation must contain the following into the following three important parts, namely:

The Introduction of the Letter of Recommendation For Students

Your reference letter should start by introducing the candidate and yourself  and explaining why you are writing this letter.

Briefly mention your qualifications and position within the institution. This is necessary to convince the reader about your credibility and competence so that they can trust your words.

Additionally, this will explain the relationship between you and the candidate, how you got to teach him/her, how you ended up working side by side.

It will confirm to the reader that you interacted with the subject sufficient time in order to get to know him/ her well enough. You should also briefly list the responsibilities or goals that the candidate had under your supervision, what type of guidance you provided.

The Body of the Reference Letter.

Here you should  mention the candidate’s achievements  under your supervision and his/her contribution throughout the period of collaboration.

Recall anecdotes and situations that portray the candidate’s abilities, personal qualities and strengths, mindset, etc.

Note that, if the subject wasn’t doing very well from day one, you can focus on his/her improvement during this period.

recommendation letter for student

The Writing Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill   says  you should also try to provide quantitative estimates of the subject. Keep in mind that grades and other standardized metrics are often hard to interpret across different settings.

Hence, it is better mention how the subjects compare to others in the same circumstances and what they are likely to achieve given their knowledge and skills.

Don’t forget to explain why the candidate is a good fit for the position.

Illustrate how the candidate would uniquely complement their range of competencies or would contribute to the professional or intellectual climate of the team or institution.

Try to portray the kind of student or employee the subject will likely be.

When evaluating the candidate’s analytical skills or creativity ,  focus on distinctive strengths, especially on the most valuable. This sample recommendation letter does this quite well.

college recommendation letter sample

These could include the ability to organize thoughts and communicate them clearly, to think deeply, multilaterally, or out of the box, to think quickly, etc.

To support some of the affirmations, you should go into greater detail and explain to the audience why you made such conclusions while also providing evidence.

Apart from discipline-related knowledge and abilities, it is important to mention the subject’s defining personal qualities and soft skills.

Comprehensive lists of such traits and skills can be found in articles teaching  how to promote yourself  for the purpose of career growth. These might include:

Of all these skills, focus on those that seem to be most relevant for the corresponding position. Including vivid details that illustrate your claims will make the recommendation more credible.

How to write

The Conclusion

The concluding parts of the letter must provide a brief summary of the key points listed above and a restatement of your support of the candidate.

Referees should also state the readiness and willingness to provide additional information, as needed (for instance, during a phone call or as an email reply). Obviously, contact information should be provided to make this possible.

The Recommendation Letter Shouldn’t Be Too Short Or Too Short.

Although the typical length of a letter varies somewhat across professional fields, it is important not to write overly short or overly long letters.

Otherwise, the length of the letter usually   correlates   directly with the measure of your support for the candidate.

For a demanding position, a strong recommendation should be more than 1 – 1.5 pages in length, while short letters serve as a red flag for many.

The guide from Burroughs Welcome Fund mentions that a referee needs to also be aware of absent information and the message this can send.

In other words, since a letter of recommendation mentions only the goods, not mentioning highly-relevant positive qualities may lead to strong suspicions of their absence.

Writing books

The same guide states that good reference letters also mention non-critical weaknesses and tend to attenuate or compensate them with positive details or facts.

Oftentimes, it is mentioning these weaknesses that creates the impression of honesty and objectivity.

However, as the guide from the University of North Carolina advises, you should mention the weaknesses that the audience would already be aware of.

If these are related to lower grades for certain subjects, explain the reason or state that the subject improved or has the potential to do so.

However, these weaknesses should only cover the professional dimension, not the personal one.

The letter  should avoid  informal language, inappropriate humor, slang, casual language – use business or academic language instead. The text should be free of grammar and spelling mistakes, it should be well-structured, with a good flow and   layout , and should use proper wording.

It is generally inappropriate to mention the candidate’s race, ethnicity, religion, political preferences, age, health or marital status since reference letters should assess professional qualities.  

Also, pay attention to language that might introduce gender or other biases. Thus, evidence shows that women are more likely to be portrayed with qualifiers that are irrelevant to their professional skills.

Avoid clichés and generalizations like “ hard-working ,” “ dedicated ,” and “ enthusiastic” – to describe these qualities, it is always better to employ powerful anecdotes and vignette. 

Don’t abuse the number of compliments and stay away from exaggerated, awkward, or half-hearted compliments.

The latter can be interpreted as “I didn’t find anything better to say about the candidate”.

How to Use Examples of Letters of Recommendation Online

There are plenty of free   samples online to help with your first recommendation letter. However, you must be careful not to copy them.

Every reference letter is unique to each applicant. Do your best to tailor your LOR to suit your candidate’s needs.

Below, you can also find 2 excellent reference letter examples you can use for various occasions.

More Sample Letters of Recommendation

Written by a Manager for a freelance worker

Anna Fields

Chief Operating Officer

Windberg , Inc.

13 Vermont Lane

Portland, Oregon 97206

Dear Ms. Fields,

I’m very pleased to recommend Kara for the position of Web Designer with Windberg , Inc. Kara has worked with our accessory company, Sundial Co., on a freelance basis over the past several years. While I’ve communicated with Kara remotely via video chat and email, I’ve gotten to know her as a reliable employee with substantial web design skills. I have no doubt that she’ll continue to create outstanding work as a full-time web designer with your company.

Kara began contributing to our company over five years ago. She started with us during a major push to rebrand and worked on design across the site. Kara elevated our company’s aesthetic by redefining our design across our website pages. In fact, she updated our logo, which we use across all our pages and ema il newsletters. She’s fluent in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and has experience with website builders, like WordPress and Wix . Kara has an artistic eye and a keen sense of user experience. We owe a great deal of the appeal and ease of use of our new website t o Kara’s efforts.

In addition to working on front end design, Kara also worked across our social media platforms. She helped shape our Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages and engage users with viral content. She was especially skilled with cu rating content on Instagram and Pinterest. Most recently, she put together a style story on one of our jewelry designers, a feature that’s gotten over 2,000 shares. Between her strong sense of aesthetics and attention to detail, Kara was able to create a s leek visual experience that drew in customers and boosted sales.

While Kara has been a great talent on our team, she seeks to work for a cause which she’s passionate about – environmental protection. She’s excited about Windberg’s mission to make alternati ve energy affordable to the average consumer. I’m excited she’s found this opportunity to apply her expertise as a web designer to a cause that’s so close to her heart.

Kara is a creative, detail-oriented, and savvy web designer with a passion for the sola r and renewables industry. She’s great at working independently and can produce high-level work with little supervision. I have no doubt that she will make an excellent addition to the Windberg team. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Thank s for your time.

Edmund Hefner

Web Design Director

Sundial Co.

[email protected]


Sample letter #5

Written by a supervisor for an employee to facilitate an internal promotion

Abraham Mendes

Director of Customer Relations


65 Elm Road

Denver, CO 80014

Dear Mr. Mendes,

It’s my pleasure to provide this recommendation for Emilia as she pursues the Customer Experience Team Lead position with GrimStrikes. As her supervisor on the customer service team for the past four years, I’ve worked closely with Emilia on a day-to-day basis. I’m confident that Emilia is ready to transition into a leadership position. Please allow me to give a couple of examples of Emilia’s qualifications for this promotion.

Firstly, Emilia embo dies our “customer-centric” philosophy and delivers an extraordinary shopping and ownership experience to our clients. She has impressed me with her warmth and kindness online, over the phone, and in person. For example, she showed on multiple occasions he r ability to relate to our customers, consoling as well as educate them on company’s product and services.

Secondly, Emilia has an in-depth knowledge of our products and operating procedures. After four years on the support team, she’s dealt with a variety of issues and understands the day-to-day operations and big picture aims of our business. She can solve pr oblems fast and has introduced several new initiatives for improvement. Recently, she began working on a new framework to facilitate communication between the support team and the product team. Emilia is improving the delivery of case notes from support re presentatives to product designers. She uses her in-depth knowledge to drive innovation.

Thirdly, Emilia has shown leadership skills throughout her time with GrimStrikes. Her colleagues recognize her as an expert in all things support, and they often go to her with questions. In the past year, she’s helped with the onboarding of several new employees, assisting with training and checking in weekly to discuss their progress. Since new employee onboarding will be a large part of her role as Customer Experienc e Team Lead, Emilia has already proven her capability in this area. I know that she has her colleagues’ support in stepping into the role of team leader.

Emilia has proven her expertise in customer relations time and time again, and she is ready to move in to a position of team leadership. She is capable, confident, and committed to our mission of extraordinary support. I look forward to seeing her in the position of Customer Experience Team Lead with GrimStrikes. Thank you very much. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions.

Edna Wallaby

Customer Experience Manager



How to write a letter

Writing a reference is a complex process that requires sufficient time, personal involvement, and effort. However, given the importance of this document for the future of the candidate, the referee has a moral obligation to take it seriously.

The reference letter for a college or job application should highlight the candidate’s accomplishments, professional qualifications, and personal traits that are relevant to the position he or she is applying for. In doing so, it is essential to identify the good qualities of the candidate and portray the latter from a positive angle. The extent to which this portrait manages to be comprehensive, positive, and credible will determine the strength of the recommendation letter.

Have you ever written a letter of recommendation for a college student or a former colleague/employee?

How did you go about it? What challenges did you face? How did you overcome these challenges?

Which of these sample letters of recommendation appealed to you the most? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

  Author’s Bio:  

Bridgette Hernandez:

Bridgette is a content writing specialist who works for students and with students. She teaches them how to write formal or creative texts and how to overcome common challenges in order to unlock their full writing potential.

Right now, she is working on turning this   helpful site  into a vast freely accessible database of essays on a great variety of topics.

Bridgette also likes to explore the tricks and techniques that can boost creative and prolific writing. She also likes to reflect and how these could be implemented in a mass education setting.

Share this:

Leave a Reply Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

Notify me of new posts by email.

Post Comment

Parents and educators: How to write good letters of recommendation

Because of our highly competitive applicant pool, letters of recommendation hold substantial weight in our admissions decisions. A well-written letter for an outstanding applicant can show impressive characteristics beyond their own self-advocacy.

A guide to writing evaluations for MIT

Both school counselor and teacher evaluations are most helpful when they are specific and storied. They should provide us with the information and impressions we cannot glean from the rest of the application. Try to give a complete sketch of the student and the context of their accomplishments. Support your conclusions with facts and anecdotes whenever possible.

Try to address the following questions in your evaluation:

Please pay special attention to the opening and closing of your evaluation. Remember, we are reading over 30,000 applications, and we appreciate strong statements that we’ll remember as we evaluate each candidate. With that said, please write in a way that makes you feel comfortable and do not shy away from giving us your honest impressions. We are only looking for glowing superlatives if they are backed up with examples and give us context; what is behind a student’s achievements. Above all else, make sure to go beyond a student’s grades and academic performance. We can get this information from other parts of the application.

Letters of recommendation are confidential in the MIT admissions process.

Examples letters of recommendation and critiques

Teacher recommendation for david :.

It is a great pleasure for me to recommend David for admission to MIT. He is one of the most extraordinary students I have encountered in 20 years of teaching. I taught David A.P. Calculus last year as a tenth grader, and he was one of the very top students in an extremely able group of mostly seniors. He has a high aptitude for math and was very much involved in his work, applying himself with persistence and dedication and often going beyond the regular class assignments. David’s abiding interest, however, is computer science. He has developed a series of “strands” for use in providing computerized drill and review in the basic skills and techniques of algebra and arithmetic and has recently adapted these to other subjects. David’s work in this area has been so original and significant that he has published a paper on it and delivered several lectures to professionals in other parts of the country. This is a phenomenal accomplishment for anyone, especially a young man in rural Arkansas. It is also worth noting that both last year and this year David taught computer programming to a tenth-grade class of mine for two weeks. He took over completely, preparing lectures, assignments, and tests with great care and thought. His lectures were clear and well organized, and it was obvious that he had expended a great deal of effort to make the course the success that it was. David’s personal qualities are as impressive as his intellectual accomplishments. An extremely kind, sensitive and sensible boy, he has had a difficult family situation for a few years now. He provides emotional support to his mother through her battle with cancer without allowing the situation to undermine his own stability and accomplishments. He has exhausted all that we have to offer him in this small community, and the maturity that he has demonstrated leads me to believe him capable of entering college a year early, as he now plans to do. I sincerely hope that you will be able to offer him a place in MIT’s freshman class.

Critique :  Excellent! This recommendation is filled with comments from someone who clearly knows this student well. We get a clear sense for not only David’s intellectual capacities, but also emotional maturity. His genuine love for computer programming comes through in this teacher’s description. We also realize that he is pushing academic boundaries in his community and making opportunities for himself—a trait that is especially important for a candidate seeking college admissions a year early.

Teacher recommendation for Jen:

Jen was a student in one of my predominately senior physics classes. She took physics her junior year in high school and was a good student. Through hard work, she was able to develop a good understanding of the subject material. Jen also had personal qualities that are commendable. In the two years that I have known her I have never known her to be dishonest or untrustworthy. Once on an exam paper I had made a grading error in her favor. She brought this to my attention even though it resulted in a lower test grade. In conclusion, I feel that Jen has both the academic and personal qualities to be a credit to the college of her choice, and I give her my recommendation without reservation.

Critique : We receive thousands of recommendations like this each year. It is all positive, but it doesn’t give any real depth to the candidate. In this instance, the reader is left feeling the writer is reaching for something to say. Honesty and trustworthiness are certainly admirable traits, but they are not uncommon among the nation’s top college applicants. We are looking for a compelling reason to admit someone, so information on the class material does not help the candidate. Although Jen may be a hard worker, most of our applicants are. Although the comments are positive, it is difficult to grasp onto anything tangible to make this candidate’s case stronger. Was this faint praise intentional? How does Jen fare in comparison with other (more outstanding?) candidates at the school?

Counselor recommendation for Mary:

Mary has contributed to the school community in a variety of ways, most notably through her participation on the newspaper and yearbook staffs. Frankly, I am impressed with her aggressiveness, creativity, determination and ability to schedule extracurricular activities around a full academic workload. I have never heard Mary complain about her workload or refuse any assignment that she has been given. It is not adequate to say that she accepts responsibility readily. She  seeks  responsibility. Oh, for more such students! As business manager for the paper and co-editor of the yearbook the past two years, Mary has done an outstanding job. She personally brought the town’s business community from the view that the school newspaper was a charitable organization to the realization that the paper is a direct pipeline through which advertisers can reach students. She also took the initiative to set up the advertising rate schedule for the paper that produced enough revenue to expand coverage from a four-page paper, so that it is an eight-page and often twelve-page paper. Her work as photographer for both publications has been equally outstanding. Her motivation is not forced upon her, nor does she wear it like a badge. She has tremendous self-discipline. Mary is also a dedicated, versatile and talented student who will be an asset to your undergraduate community. She has my respect and my highest recommendation.

Critique : Good. Lots of specifics here give us a very clear impression and help us to know why that impression is held. We have evidence of her newspaper directives and overall character.

Counselor recommendation for Jane:

Jane is an outstanding young woman whose academic record may not fully reflect her ability. Her parents were divorced during her junior year, and, for several years before that, her home situation had been in turmoil with a great deal of fighting between her parents. Her father has an alcohol problem, and Jane certainly endured a great deal of emotional distress. The fact that she has been able to do as well as she has done given the circumstances says a lot about her. Now that the home situation has stabilized, her performance has improved. I believe her senior year grades are a much better reflection of her ability.

Critique : You may wonder whether or not the above information is appropriate in a letter of evaluation. It is! We appreciate anything that gives us insight and perspective into a student’s performance and the environment. Comments about problems that a student has experienced will help us understand the context in which they have accomplished whatever they have achieved. The extent to which they have dealt with these problems is useful to know as well.

Counselor recommendation for Mike:

I do not really know Mike very well. He has come to me for routine matters but generally has not had any problems that he has discussed with me. In this large school, I do not always have the time to personally get to know each of my advisees. From the comments I get from Mike’s teachers, I have the impression that he is one of the strongest students this school has seen.

Critique : We do not learn very much from this report, but we understand why. The counselor is very honest, and we are not left guessing as to the reason there is not more information and will turn our attention to other parts of the application.

Teacher recommendation for Brian:

Brian was in the top five in my class consistently. He is certainly motivated to study. His character and personality are admirable. Brian is an excellent student, hard worker and has above average reasoning ability.

Critique : This is an example of an evaluation in which we really don’t know what the writer is trying to tell us. The comments provided certainly do not give much substantive information. We are left wondering whether there is just not much to say about this student or whether the teacher just didn’t bother to put much effort into the recommendation. This is a situation where we will probably form our impressions based on the pattern of all the recommendations. If all are equally uninformative, we will assume there wasn’t much to say, but if the others are better, we will assume this teacher did not give much effort to the recommendation.

Ideas, Inspiration, and Giveaways for Teachers

We Are Teachers

Tips for Writing a Genuine and Powerful College Recommendation Letter

Your words can make a big difference.

Tiffany Post

College admissions season is upon us. With the ever-increasing competition among college applicants, writing an effective and sincere college recommendation letter is one way high school teachers can help students stand out among the competition. Every year, I write recommendations for a dozen or so students, often to the most prestigious universities in the nation. Here are a few things I have learned along the way:

Make sure you know the student well enough to recommend them

It’s OK to ask a student to provide you with a list of accomplishments and extracurricular activities. In fact, many teachers require students to provide a quick resume before they draft the letter! You can use these details to complement more personal narratives. However, if you find that you don’t really have personal details to add, you may want to consider whether you are the right person to write that student’s recommendation.

If I feel that I don’t know a student well enough or don’t feel comfortable recommending them for some other reason, I just politely decline the request. I usually tell these students to ask a teacher who knows them better.

Open with a formal salutation

College recommendation letter opening

Your letter is a business letter and requires a business letter format. If possible, address the letter to the specific college or scholarship board it is for, but To Whom It May Concern and Dear Admissions Representative are both acceptable salutations if your letter is going to be used for multiple applications. Use a colon instead of a comma. When mailing a letter, make sure to print it on your school letterhead.

Paragraph 1: Introduce the student

College recommendation letter sample paragraph one

Try opening your letter with something the person tasked with screening hundreds (possibly thousands) of recommendation letters will remember. I like to start with an amusing or poignant story that illustrates who the student is and how others perceive them.

Make sure to use the student’s full name for the first reference and then just the first name after that. My favorite strategy is to end the paragraph with a single sentence that highlights the student’s strongest characteristics, in my opinion. You’ll also want to let the college know the context of your relationship: how you know the student and how long you’ve known them.

Paragraphs 2 and 3: Write more about character, less about achievements

College recommendation letter sample paragraph two and three

In the body of the letter, focus on who the student is rather than what the student has done . Between test scores, transcripts, and the dozens of questions on the application, admissions representatives have plenty of information about the applicant’s academic and extracurricular experiences.

What college reps want to know is how the student will fit into their environment. Give specific examples of how the student achieved—did they overcome obstacles or tackle any challenges to reach their goals? I usually write two short paragraphs for the body. Sometimes the first relates character to academics, and the next relates character to extracurricular activities. Other times, I use the student’s characteristics as the main focal points. Colleges are looking for how the student goes above and beyond the normal school experience.

Paragraph 4: Conclude with a direct recommendation

College recommendation letter sample paragraph four

Conclude with a sincere statement of recommendation for the student to the college of their choice. When sending the recommendation to a single college, use the college’s name or mascot in your recommendation. If you have knowledge of the specific college, state why you think you believe the student is a good match.

For a recommendation that will be used for multiple applications, such as the Common App, leave out specific references.

Tip: I return to using the student’s full name in my final reference to them in the letter.

Wrap it up with an appropriate closing

College recommendation letter sample closing

My last statement encourages the college to contact me with any further questions. I close with B est regards , currently my favorite valediction; it is professional and simple. I also include my title and school after my typed name.

Keep your college recommendation letter under one page long—and proofread it!

The sweet spot for admissions letter length is between two-thirds and one full, single-spaced page, using Times New Roman 12-point font for printed letters or Arial 11-point font for electronically submitted letters. If your letter is too short, you risk appearing less than impressed with the applicant; if it is too long, you risk seeming insincere or boring.

Finally, remember that you are writing a recommendation to an academic institution. Your reputation and credibility as an educator rest with your letter. While proofreading, check for active voice, proper grammar, and a formal yet warm tone. ( Consider using Grammarly! ) If you are unsure of the content or conventions you’ve used in your letter, ask another teacher who knows the student to read your letter and provide additional insight.

Good luck to you and your students this college admissions season! May the pride you have for your students resonate in your recommendation letters for them, and may they get into their reach college.

Want to see some great college recommendation letter examples? Check out these letters written by real teachers .

Plus, check out our free college admissions timeline poster..

Help your students get into the college of their dreams with these tips for writing a good college recommendation letter!

I teach upper level high school and freshman college English. I have three sons: a high school drum major, an elementary Angry Birds fan, and a preschool Star Wars lover. I love to read when I have the chance, am always trying to get fit, and love cookies.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

writing letter of recommendation for student

writing letter of recommendation for student

Writing Recommendation Letters for Students

As a first-year writing seminar (FWS) teacher, you may be asked by students to write letters of recommendation for them for internships, campus jobs and organizations, or even for graduate school. While juniors and seniors should be requesting letters from faculty in their majors, who they have worked closely with, first-year students may have limited interactions and relationships with faculty and advisors. That is, you may be one of the only teacher's they've worked with closely or had in a small classroom context. Thus, it's useful to be prepared for recommendation requests, by having some guidelines to give to students and an approach to drafting these letters. 

Before Writing a Letter

Whether you're engaging with a student via email or talking with them in person, you should request the following: 

You may also ask the student to do some work that will help you write your letter and cater it to their puproses. For instance, you might ask them to write up short respones to the following questions. Their answers can help you focus your letter or you might even quote from their responses in your letter. 

If there’s anything questionable in the student’s behavior, request a meeting to discuss:

Also, remember it's important to set boundaries. You might not want to agree to write a letter of recommendation in the following situations. However, make sure that you're upfront with students and quickly tell them that you're unable to write a letter for them and why (so they can learn from this experience). 

What kinds of information should you include?

Can you craft a reference letter template? Is this a good idea?

Yes & No. Ideally, it’s always best to be specific and cater letters for specific students and their specific audiences.

However, if you’re recommending students from the same course--there are sections that you can keep fairly similar. For instance, you might have a template description of your big assignment, an overview of the course, or an intro and conclusion. Your description of the work that students do can be reused.

An advantage of a template is that if you get requests at the last minute from students you’d otherwise like to support, it’s less of a challenge. And, you can always ditch the template or do more.

ProTips for Writing Letters

​ Try to capture not only WHAT the student has done, but the VALUE of the work/activity. How does this work, these skills, or their personality traits potentially transfer to other contexts, graduate school, or jobs? 

Get a digital departmental/university letterhead (all departments have one for this purpose)

Create a digital signature (you can save this and use it forever)

Request a student’s resume--you want to provide a small sense that you know the student--naming their major and the scope of their work is a small move that adds a lot

Ask your friends, faculty advisors, or Knight Institute faculty if you can see their letters of recommendation as models


  1. Free Student Recommendation Letter Template (with Examples)

    writing letter of recommendation for student

  2. Writing A Letter Of Recommendation For A Medical Student

    writing letter of recommendation for student

  3. College Recommendation Letter (10+ Sample Letters & Free Templates)

    writing letter of recommendation for student

  4. Letter Of Recommendation Template For University Student • Invitation Template Ideas

    writing letter of recommendation for student

  5. 8+ Student Letter Templates

    writing letter of recommendation for student

  6. Letter Of Recommendation From Teacher To Student For College • Invitation Template Ideas

    writing letter of recommendation for student


  1. How to Write Cover Letter || Cover Letter || Samiul Elam

  2. Lesson 5 24: Recommendation Letter

  3. Write Recommendation Letters for your students IN MINUTES with ChatGPT

  4. Recommendation

  5. Getting an Academic Letter Of Recommendation- Download My Sample- LOR for University

  6. Who should write my recommendation letters?


  1. How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

    People may need letters of recommendation in a variety of situations, such as applying for admission to school, applying for a job or even trying to rent an apartment. Are you writing a letter of recommendation for someone? Here’s what to i...

  2. How Do You Write a Personal Letter?

    Personal letters are usually given to family and friends to express thoughts of gratitude and love. They typically include the basic parts of a letter, which are the heading, date, greeting, content, closing, signature and post script.

  3. How Do You Write an Open Letter?

    The form and content of an open letter depends on its purpose. If the goal is to inform the public about something that happened, it should specify what took place. Some people write open letters to express opinions.

  4. How To Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student

    How to write a recommendation letter for a student · 1. Ask the student for academic information · 2. Address your letter accordingly · 3.

  5. 4 Amazing Recommendation Letter Samples for Students

    The first example recommends Sara, a senior who loves to write and read poetry. Sample Letter #1: Sara the Poet. Dear Admissions Committee,. I

  6. Letter of Recommendation Samples for Students

    A recommendation letter should be at least a few paragraphs long, typically a page or two in length. It should contain specifics that illustrate

  7. How to write a letter of recommendation that strengthens a student's

    Many counselors recommend beginning with a statement of how you know the student (did you teach them in a subject, coach them in a sport or supervise them in an

  8. Writing Letters of Recommendation for Students

    As a potential recommendation writer, you are providing an important and integral service for your college-bound student. A good recommendation letter

  9. How to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student

    The DOs and DON'Ts of Writing a Teacher Recommendation Letter for Students. We asked Kati Sweaney, senior assistant dean of admission at Reed

  10. Letter of Recommendation For Students: 10 Sample

    A good letter of recommendation must contain the following into the following three important parts, namely: ... Your reference letter should

  11. How to write good letters of recommendation

    They should provide us with the information and impressions we cannot glean from the rest of the application. Try to give a complete sketch of the student and

  12. Tips for Writing Strong Letters of Recommendation

    Important: If you cannot write a supportive letter of recommendation (e.g., if you did not work with the student very long or did not have a good

  13. Tips for Writing a College Recommendation Letter

    Tips for Writing a Genuine and Powerful College Recommendation Letter · Make sure you know the student well enough to recommend them · Open with a

  14. Writing Recommendation Letters for Students

    How you know the student (your role, length of time) · Your understanding of the student's strengths · Useful context: what did the student do with you? (select