An academic/school reference letter is a document that provides details about a student’s academic achievements, character as a student, and future career aspirations.
Academic reference letters are mostly written by teachers, guidance counselors, school administrators, coaches, and club organizers as they have ample evidence of a student’s capabilities. These parties are often the most qualified sources to write a school reference letter that suggests how the student will fit into the new educational institution or career. Typically, academic reference letters are specifically requested to be written about someone, and therefore, they should be addressed to a particular requester such as a higher institution admission officer, a company’s hiring team, etc. However, they are sometimes issued to the person being recommended without specifying an addressee.
While giving a lot of information, application letters don’t give a complete review of the character of the student, dependability, and scholarly abilities.
Recommendation letters offer this fundamental understanding and data about the personality of a student.
Importance of Academic Reference Letter
Academic reference letters are generally written to help students get into graduate school programs or get internships and entry-level jobs in corporate organizations. While the student’s transcripts and standardized test scores can provide information on a student’s academic knowledge and qualifications, the admissions department or company hiring team uses the school reference letter to help validate their data-based perspective on a student.
Academic reference letters can also be used as an alternative to a professional reference for someone who lacks work experience in a given industry. In this case, academic reference letters can be particularly powerful if the job opening aligns with the applicant’s academic experience.
What is Included in an Academic Reference Letter?
Academic reference letters for students should include the following important details:
- The referee’s name and contact information,
- The name of the student being recommended
- A detailed explanation of the referee’s academic relationship with the student
- An evaluation of the student’s specific skills and potential for success in their future endeavors.
- The school reference letter should also include an enthusiastic endorsement of the referee’s candidacy.
How to Craft an Academic Reference Letter
Generally, an academic reference letter should be one or two pages in length. The document should focus on the student’s academic history, character, and future academic or career aspirations. Here is a guide on how to craft the letter:
Request for the student’s academic information
This is a great pre-writing consideration and the first step to writing an effective school reference letter for a student. Ask the student for a list of academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and GPA. In addition, request information about the program, college, university, or job they are applying for to tailor the letter to the specific program or job they are applying to.
For instance, if the student is applying for a position at a given company, the recommender can ask to review the company’s job description to identify how best the student can suit the role. If the student is applying to a university, the writer of the academic reference letter can ask to review the student’s personal essay to learn more about why they are applying and what they hope to achieve from the opportunity.
Correctly address the academic reference letter
Writing a proper address for the school reference letter ensures that it reaches the correct audience and makes the letter seem more personalized. To be sure on whom to address the letter to, ask the student to provide the full details of the addressee, including their name, title, and role in the application process. If the addressee’s details are unknown to the student, then the writer can generally address the academic reference letter—for example, Dear college’s admission’s office, Dear Company Hiring Team, etc.
Important Note: If the student is applying to various learning institutions, programs, or companies, the address format of the letter should be general, but the recommender can try to highlight the student’s suitable attributes as much as possible.
For instance, if the student is applying for an entry-level data analyst position at several companies, the recommender can focus on the student’s achievements as a data science student in college and provide specific examples of the student’s successful projects or data science awards.
Include a self-introductory paragraph
The first paragraph of the Academic reference letter should portray the writer’s credibility as the student’s recommender to offer the admission board a valued opinion of the candidate. In this section, the recommender should identify who he/she is and how he/she is qualified to speak on behalf of the student.
The self-introductory paragraph of the academic reference letter should also include details of how long the recommender has known the specific student and in what capacity. The recommender can use a few sentences to explain their role in the student’s academic life or describe their first impressions of the student and how they have seen them advance academically or personality-wise. The phrasing of this section should be in terms of how the student has been outstanding in class, on their assignments, extracurricular activity, and in other day-to-day academic settings.
Include an evaluation of the student’s qualifications
While academic reference letters provide a good starting point for students to get admitted to coveted positions and programs, the most effective school reference letters are often those that are highly personalized with unique examples of the student’s personality and qualifications. Remember, most universities and companies usually look for candidates that they believe can contribute to and improve the organization.
In this regard, the writer of the academic reference letter should illustrate how the student can contribute to an organization’s success by showing the student’s specific contributions and achievements while in school.
These specific examples can be drawn from the student’s resume or academic information from items such as:
- Leadership roles
- Individual or group projects
- Involvement in extracurricular activities such as clubs, volunteering, and gaming activities.
- Academic excellence
- Competitions, awards, and recognitions
The conclusion of the academic reference letter should include a hearty endorsement of the recommender’s candidacy. One can achieve this by restating their support of the student’s qualifications, achievements, and potential for success and an offer to remain available should the reader have more questions about the recommendation and experience with the given student.
The recommender is advised to include a few options for the recipient of the academic reference letter to contact them, such as an active phone number and email address. Providing the writer’s contact information demonstrates to the hiring company or admission’s board that the recommenders confident in the student’s abilities and that he/she fully endorses them for the program or role, which may influence their decision to select the given candidate.
Follow the submission guidelines
After completing the school reference letter, the recommender should proofread the letter and ensure it is free of grammar and punctuation errors. Afterward, he/she should ask the student how to submit the academic reference letter and follow any submission requirements to the latter. This is especially when the admission board or company’s hiring team is specific about where, when, and in which format to send the school reference letter.
Academic Reference Letter Template
__ [School’s Letterhead]
__ [Sender’s Name]|
__[Sender’s department and address]
__ [Sender’s phone number]
__ [Sender’s Email address]
__ [Current date]
__ [Recipient’s name]
__ [Recipient’s address]
Dear _ [Recipient’s name, if known]: or To Whom it May Concern:
I am greatly honored to recommend [name of candidate] for admission to _____ [name of program, job position, course] at ____ [institution’s name]. I am a _ [job title, role in the school] at _ [name of the school, City/state]. I came to know _ [applicant’s name] when I was __ [Mention the Referee’s academic relationship with the student, e.g., Mathematics teacher, Volleyball instructor, college professor, etc.] in [what capacity e.g., grade 8, High school, college year 3, etc.]. The course comprised ____ [write a brief description of the course] and _ [applicant’s name] distinguished herself by submitting an exceptionally well-researched and interesting project on ethical practices in Insurance Management. Overall, I would rank ___ [applicant’s name] in the top 2% of students that I have taught in the past [duration] in respect of her research skills and writing ability.
[Student’s name] is highly intelligent with very impressive_________ [mention skills and capabilities]. From my first encounter with her in class, she has always impressed me with her extensive knowledge and ambition. She participated in every discussion and performed very well on all her assignments. Besides that, _ [applicant’s name] has always been an active participant of _ [mention the extracurricular activity] that her fellow students elected her as the lead student aide for the sports training program.
Over the years, I have watched __ [applicant’s name] work with other students in a caring and compassionate manner. I believe that she is best suited for the _ [mention the program’s name/job position] that your organization is offering because she has the necessary drive and skills to tackle it. I do not doubt that [applicant’s name] will prove to be a key asset to your organization.
I am available to discuss __ [student’s name] skills and charismatic nature with you anytime. Do not hesitate to contact me at _ [referee’s phone number], or email at___________ [referee’s email address].
__ [Recommender’s name]
__ [Job title]
__ [School’s name]
Here are free templates that can be downloaded and customized as per need:
Who can Request to Write an Academic Reference Letter?
Reference letters are for the most part useful to undergraduates applying to graduate programs, individuals in the workforce who are applying for occupations, and students who want to join an undergraduate program.
- People applying to an MBA program or college require 2-3 references that clarify why they should be accepted in the business college. The reference may clarify how they have prevailed or faired in past scholarly or business interests.
- Some grant programs expect candidates to submit references to help grant their applications. This is most normal in programs that honor grants in view of scholarly legitimacy, volunteer understanding, and so on.
- A vocation searcher may likewise require a composed proficient reference or suggestion. The reference should clarify or back the reasons why the individual who wants the job is a decent contender for a specific position in an organization. These letters tend to concentrate on proficient capabilities.
Following are a few quick tips to help you write a good reference letter:
- Concentrate on the candidate.
- A portrayal of the candidateʼs record.
- An assessment of the achievements of the candidate.
- Talk of individual qualities just to the degree that they foresee potential development and work execution.
School reference letters are a great addition to a student’s transcripts as they help organizations and institutions of higher learning better understand who the student is, what he/she aspires to be, and how the student is likely to perform in a given role. In addition, the 1-2 pages long document can complement a student’s resume and cover letter to a company to provide more useful insight into his/her school-related accomplishments. Therefore, when writing a school reference letter for a student, the recommender should maintain a positive note throughout the letter. Nonetheless, he/she should ensure they have adequate facts about the student to avoid writing a generalized letter, as this will less likely influence the selection of the given applicant.