How to Write a Letter of Recommendation to a Student (With Examples)

Closeup of handshake.
Closeup of handshake. | Source

The letter of recommendation to a student is an extremely important document. A well-written, persuasive recommendation letter for a student that provides concrete real life examples can help get the individual into a top college or graduate school of their choice as well as help him or her land a good-paying job. A poorly written, vague document can actually cause more harm than good. Therefore, it is critical that you learn how to write a letter of recommendation that will persuade and convince the admissions committee or employer that the individual you are recommending is a great fit for their position.


Useful Tips for Letter of Recommendation to a Student

Here are some tips on how to write a letter of recommendation that will get positive results:


  • Only write a letter of recommendation to a student for someone you know well. If you attempt to recommend someone you are not very well acquainted with, your reference will lack detail and come off as vague and not very convincing. The most effective recommendation letter for a student provides concrete examples and specific accomplishments to back up character qualities such as hard-working, intelligent, creative or honest.


  • Ask the individual who is asking for a referral to provide you with a resume, transcripts and any other useful information you might need to help you write an effective reference.


SJSU Librarian Helps Student in Reference - SJSU Librarian Helps Student at Reference Desk, 2nd floor King Library.
SJSU Librarian Helps Student in Reference - SJSU Librarian Helps Student at Reference Desk, 2nd floor King Library. | Source


  • Be specific and provide concrete examples of the person's accomplishments. For example, discuss organizations the individual has been involved with and what their specific contributions were, note your observations of how you have seen the person interacting with others or highlight major goals the individual has accomplished.


  • Keep your letter of recommendation to a student concise. The document should provide detail and present a persuasive case as to why the person should be admitted into school or hired for a job. However, keep your reference concise and well organized. A one page document is more than sufficient.

  • Make a connection between positive character traits and skills with how these qualities will contribute to their future success in college, graduate school or the workplace. If the individual is hard working and intelligent, think about how will that contribute to the success of the university or employer.


  • Proofread. All of these tips how to write a letter of recommendation won't mean anything if you send in a reference with grammatical errors and typos. Go over the document carefully and correct any errors before mailing or returning to the person asking for the reference.


Practical & Creative Writing Lessons : How to Write a Recommendation Letter


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Letter of Recommendation to a Student Template

Here is a basic template you can follow for how to write a letter of recommendation. Remember that specific accomplishments and real life examples are important. Also, for the most effective results, you should persuasive, concise language to show the person in the best light possible and convince the admissions committee or hiring manager that the individual is a great fit for their position. Your reference should follow the basic business letter format.


Header: your contact information followed by the recipient's contact information (if known). Next list the date.


Salutation: Start the document with Dear Mr. or Mrs./Ms. Last Name, if known. If not you can use Dear Admissions Committee, Dear Hiring Manager or To Whom It May Concern.


Introductory Paragraph: State who you are writing the reference for and identify who you are, what your position is and how long you have known the person.


Body: Provide specific details about the individual's skills (i.e. organizational skills, communication skills), personal characteristics (intelligence, creativity, hard working, persistent, etc) as well as accomplishments. Provide concrete examples of specific times you have observed their personal qualities in action such as a specific time the person displayed leadership qualities or successfully led a team to accomplish its goals. Explain how the individual, based on their skills and personal characteristics, could contribute to the success of the university or company they are applying to.


Signature: Sign the document sincerely yours with your signature followed by your name typed out. Provide your email address and phone number in case the individual has any further questions.

Closing Paragraph: Summarize your key points and clearly state the reasons why you strongly recommend the person for the position they are applying for. Your main objective here is to persuade and convince the admissions committee or hiring manager that the individual is a great candidate for their position.


If you follow our how to write a letter of recommendation tips and recommended format, you should end up with a very strong recommendation that will be very beneficial for the individual. Below are some specific samples that you can use as models for your own references.


How to Write a Letter of Recommendation


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Sample Recommendation Letter for a Student Applying for College


ABC College

Admissions Department

5555 Undergrad Ave

Atlanta, GA 55555



January 31, 2013


Jennifer Allen

English Teacher and Yearbook Adviser

XYZ High School

100 Maple Lane

Nashville, TN 33333




Dear Admissions Committee:


I am writing on behalf of Thomas Littleton who is applying for the Journalism program at ABC College. I have known Thomas for the past three years, having served as his English teacher as well as Supervisor for the XYZ High School Yearbook. I highly recommend Thomas and believe he would make a strong contribution to ABC College and the Journalism Department.


Over the course of his time at XYZ High School, Thomas has been an exemplary student. He has been on the honor roll all four years and shown a high level of intelligence, creativity and excellence in all of his academic endeavors. It has been a pleasure to have such a hard-working and dedicated student in my classes for the past three years. Thomas wrote several impressive papers as part of his English class assignments, including a brilliant social analysis of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Thomas has also been an active participant in class discussions and has always been willing and ready to help his fellow classmates in any way he can.


In addition to his high academic achievement, Thomas has also participated in several extracurricular activities as well. For the past two years he has served as a writer and editor for our high school newspaper, played on the varsity basketball team for three years and participated on our debate team. For the past two years, Thomas was an editor for our school yearbook. As the Yearbook Adviser, I appreciated his outstanding writing and leadership skills he brought to our team.


Thomas Littleton would be such a tremendous asset for ABC College. I highly recommend that you accept Thomas into the Journalism program at ABC College. If you have any questions or need further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me at jenniferallen@xyzhighschool.com or my phone at 555-555-5555 ext. 44


Sincerely,


Jennifer Allen

English Teacher and Student Yearbook Adviser

XYZ High School


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Sample Recommendation Letter for a Student Applying for Graduate School

Dr. Gerald Jones

Director of Admissions

Grad School University

5555 University Lane

New York, NY 10011


January 1, 2013

Mary Smith, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology

ABC Undergrad University

3333 College Ave

Indianapolis, IN 33322



Dear Dr. Jones,


I am writing on behalf of Sally Lewis, who is applying for the Grad School University Sociology graduate program. I highly recommend Sally as a candidate for your program. As professor of Sociology at ABC Undergrad University, I have had the opportunity to witness first hand Sally's outstanding academic achievements and excellent work ethic. Sally has always proven herself to be an intelligent, hard-working and dedicated student.


Sally's attention to detail and dedication to the field of Sociology has been especially evident in the papers she has prepared and field work she has performed as part of her undergraduate degree. Her sociological study of a local elementary school was not only one of the most in-depth studies I have ever seen in my twelve years as professor of Sociology, it also provided the elementary school with practical recommendations that can be immediately implemented to help improve the students' learning experience at the elementary school.


I am confident that Sally Lewis will be a tremendous asset to Grad School University and the Sociology graduate program. I give my highest recommendation and encourage you to seriously consider her as a candidate for your graduate program. If you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at 555-555-5555 or marysmith@abcundergraduniversity.com.


Sincerely,


Mary Smith, Ph.D

Professor of Biology

ABC Undergrad University



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Insider's Guide to Writing a Great Letter of Recommendation


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The letter of recommendation to a student is one of the most important supporting documents to a student's application. A well-written and persuasive recommendation letter for a student can mean the difference between an individual getting that dream job and enrolling in one of the top colleges or graduate programs of their choice. That is why it is so important that you follow our tips and sample reference documents. These guidelines will help you produce references that will highlight the individual's best qualities and achievements and help them stand out in the crowd. You can use our templates and samples to help you produce high quality recommendation letters any time one of your top students or employees asks for your help. Please share your experiences, ideas or your samples of the letter of recommendation in comments below.


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Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 17 months ago from Oklahoma

I've written a few of these in my day.

Helpful tips.

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