10 College Recommendation Letter Samples (Free Templates)

It can be a nerve-inducing experience. A bright-eyed high school senior stands in front of you, asking for the letter. This is an important letter that could change their future: the college recommendation letter. High school teachers are no strangers to being asked for these letters from their students as college application dates approach. But, if you’re unfamiliar with these letters, it is important to understand the process before embarking on your journey to write one.

Free Templates

Free College Recommendation Letter Sample 01 for Word File

Editable College Recommendation Letter Sample 02 for Word File

Printable College Recommendation Letter Template 01 for Word File

Printable College Recommendation Letter Template 02 for Word File

Free College Recommendation Letter Template 03 for Word File

Customizable College Recommendation Letter Template 04 for Word File

Editable college recommendation letter template 07

Downloadable College Recommendation Sample 04 for Word File

Free College Recommendation Letter Sample 05 for Word File

Professional College Recommendation Letter Sample 06 for Word File

    What is a College Recommendation Letter?

    A recommendation letter is quite simply a letter that colleges require for students before making an admission decision. Some colleges have pre-set forms (like college admission forms) that they ask to be filled out, and others want a professionally formatted recommendation letter. These letters are pivotal in making a decision about admission. They speak to the achievements of an applicant and help the college determine the character of the applicant. These letters are especially important if the student is trying to get into a specific program.


    If a student is trying to get into a highly competitive nursing program, these letters can make all the difference when it comes to a school making an admissions decision.

    Whom Should I Ask to Write This?

    As a student, it can be confusing to figure out who you should be asking to write you a letter. The person you ask to write it is important and colleges do look at this when they go over your letters.

    As a rule of thumb, the following people are good to ask for recommendations:


    A teacher is great to ask to write you a recommendation, especially a teacher with whom you have a good relationship.


    If you have had the same English teacher for the past three years, it might be a good idea to ask them for a letter. They will have experience with your character and a good idea of your academic abilities.

    Coaches/Extracurricular Advisors

    These people see you outside of the normal classroom setting and can speak to different skills.


    A coach can assess your ability to work as part of a team. An extracurricular advisor may be able to speak to your artistic ability, your organizational skills, or how good you are with money because you served as the treasurer.

    Getting this unique opinion and insight can be valuable to colleges that are looking for students with these attributes.


    If you have had a job throughout high school, it can be important to gain a recommendation letter from them. They can speak to your customer service abilities and your emotional control with difficult customers, which can be something that can benefit you if you are trying to get into a program such as business or nursing. It also offers opportunities for you to gain employment on campus.

    Colleges generally look for letters from these sources because they speak to skills they look for in their prospective students.

    What should be Included In It?

    College admissions committees look for certain things when they are going through these letters.

    Focus on school or program

    Writing your letter aimed at the school or program shows the school that you are serious about the student you are writing for. If you make sure that the letter is tailored to the school, rather than using generalizations and writing “to whom it may concern,” the school will notice if you reference things specific to their program.

    Get information from the student

    Ask the student for a copy of their resume and their grades, and have them truly explain to you why they should get this letter. Students should all but write the letter for you with the information they are providing you. It is important to get this information before you start.

    Include specific examples

    Make sure that anything that you are writing in the letter has specific examples to support it. These anecdotal examples will be beneficial to the decision of the committee.

    Mention how you know the student and who you are

    Let the committee know how you know the student. This allows the committee to make a determination on how trustworthy your recommendation is. Also, make sure to mention your qualifications. The letter is as much about selling your qualifications as it is about selling your students.

    How Do I Format This Letter?

    When you are formatting it, you have certain things that you need to include. This should be formatted in the standard, professional format.

    Your return addresses

    Make sure to start the letter with your return address. This lets the admissions board know how to get in touch with you.

    The date

    Include in the letter either the date you are writing it or the date that you are sending it. Make sure this date is before the deadline for the letter to be received.

    The address of the college

    If you have the contact details, or if you are given the information of a specific person at the college, make sure that you include it here. If the student doesn’t provide this information, you can easily get it from the website.

    Addressing the letter

    Locate a contact person for the admissions committee to address the letter. At the very least, address the letter to the “ABC College Admissions Committee”. Skip “To Whom It May Concern” unless you have no other choice. It starts your letter more strongly.


    Start your letter with a small introduction of yourself and how you know the student. It is also best to include how long you have known them. This shouldn’t be more than two to three sentences.

    Go over the student’s accomplishments

    Take the next paragraph to explain the student’s accomplishments, both academic and otherwise. You can split this between two paragraphs, as long as you don’t make it too long. Ideally, this should only be three to five sentences.


    The conclusion should nicely package your letter. Tell the committee why this student would thrive there. Make sure that you share your contact information again at the end of this paragraph.

    Closing and signature

    “Sincerely” works perfectly well for a closing in these letters. Make sure that you sign the letter if it is to be printed. Even if it is not, digitally signing it makes it look more professional.

    Last-minute Tips

    If you’re ready to write, let’s go over some last-minute tips:

    • Avoid using clichés in your writing: If you use too many clichés in your writing, your professional tone becomes more friendly and playful. This is not what the committee is looking for in their letters.
    • Make sure your contact information is correct: When including your contact information, you need to make sure that it is up to date. If the admissions committee has any further questions about that applicant, they need a way to contact you.
    • Follow the submission guidelines: Some schools have specific guidelines that you need to follow when submitting a recommendation letter. They are asking for specific questions to be answered. Make sure that you are familiar with the guidelines and ask the student for a copy of the guidelines before saying “yes.”
    • Send your letter on letterhead: When you are writing it, make sure that you print it on professional letterhead, or, if you have the option, digital letterhead. Most high schools can provide you with a copy of their letterhead if you don’t know how to get a copy on your computer. If you work for a company, you can utilize the letterhead for that company. Keep it short: Keep your letter short and sweet. The admissions board goes through hundreds, if not thousands, of these. The longer they are, the less likely it is for the committee to read through the entire letter.

    Recommendation Letter from a Teacher

    Dear Admissions Committee,

    I am writing to wholeheartedly recommend Emily Johnson for admission to Prestige University. As her AP English Literature teacher for the past two years at Oakwood High School, I have witnessed firsthand her exceptional literary analysis skills, dedication to learning, and the positive impact she has on our school community.

    Emily has consistently demonstrated a deep understanding of complex literary themes and an ability to articulate her thoughts in both written and verbal forms. She excels in both individual assignments and group discussions, often helping her peers refine their interpretations of literary works. Her contributions to class are always insightful and provoke deeper thought and discussion among her classmates.

    Beyond academics, Emily is a leader in our school community. She served as the editor-in-chief of our school’s literary magazine, leading her team in publishing a highly praised edition focused on contemporary social issues. Her leadership skills, coupled with her passion for literature and social justice, make her a standout individual.

    Emily’s academic achievements and personal qualities are indicative of the potential she will bring to your campus. I am confident that she will excel in your program and make a significant contribution to your academic community.

    Thank you for considering her application. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require further information.


    Ms. Angela Martin  

    AP English Literature Teacher  


    (555) 123-4567

    Key Takeaways

    The sample letter is a useful example for writing a recommendation letter as a teacher for many reasons: 

    1. The teacher provides firsthand observations of the recommended person’s academic abilities, particularly in AP English Literature. This directly relates to college-level work, making the endorsement especially relevant.
    2. The mention of the recommended person’s understanding of complex literary themes and her ability to articulate thoughts both in writing and verbally are specific skills that are highly valued in a college setting.
    3. The teacher highlights the applicant’s role as editor-in-chief of the school’s literary magazine, tying her academic skills to practical leadership and community engagement.
    4. The letter notes the applicant’s influence on her classmates, suggesting she is not just a good student, but also a positive force in her educational environment.
    5. The teacher’s letter is well-structured, professionally written, and includes contact information, which adds credibility.

    Recommendation Letter from an Employer

    Dear Admissions Committee,

    I am pleased to recommend Emily Johnson for admission to Prestige University. As her supervisor at The Community Bookstore, I have observed her remarkable work ethic, professionalism, and commitment to excellence, which I believe will serve her well in college and beyond.

    During her time with us, Emily has been responsible for customer service, organizing community reading events, and assisting with our social media marketing. Her ability to learn quickly and take on new challenges is exceptional. She consistently demonstrates a positive attitude and a willingness to go above and beyond what is expected.

    Emily has excellent interpersonal skills, which have allowed her to develop strong relationships with both colleagues and customers. Her ability to work effectively as part of a team, as well as independently, is a testament to her versatility and strong character.

    I have no doubt that Emily will bring the same level of dedication and excellence to her studies at Prestige University. She is a motivated individual who is always looking for ways to improve and grow. I strongly believe she will be an asset to your institution and to the broader college community.

    Please feel free to contact me if you need any additional information or perspective on Emily’s abilities and character.

    Best regards,

    John Smith  

    Manager, The Community Bookstore  


    (555) 987-6543

    Key Takeaways

    There are several reasons why this sample is a useful example for writing a similar letter: 

    1. This letter provides insights into the recommended person’s work habits and professional demeanor, crucial traits for success in both college and future careers.
    2. The employer mentions the recommended person’s varied responsibilities and her eagerness to take on new challenges, indicating adaptability and initiative.
    3. Highlighting her ability to build relationships and work effectively in a team showcases the recommended person’s social skills, which are important for college life and group projects.
    4. The letter connects skills to real-world tasks like customer service and event organization, providing evidence of the recommended person’s ability to apply her abilities in practical settings.

    How to Say No When You Aren’t Comfortable Writing for a Student?

    If you aren’t comfortable writing a letter, it is acceptable to say “no”. There are a few ways to avoid causing offense to your student.

    • Professionally decline: Tell the student that, while you are honored, you have reservations about writing the letter. You do not have to share your reservations, but it can be helpful to let the student know where they can improve for other prospective teachers.
    • Tell the student the reason: If you don’t have time because you have already agreed to write five other recommendations, tell the student simply. Offer them another teacher they can ask for a letter that might be able to facilitate. If you feel you and the student don’t have enough experience together to write the letter, tell them that and help them come up with someone who is better suited. Students can be fairly understanding when they know the reason.
    • Remain positive: Don’t share negatives with the student if you have to decline. If you’re declining because they show little work ethic in your class, frame it in a positive light. Always offer them a positive that you have noticed before you point out your reservations if you choose to do so.

    About This Article

    Jake Adams
    Authored by:
    Academic tutoring, learning resources, SAT & ACT prep, college admissions applications
    Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, an online tutoring business based in Santa Monica, California. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients with the best online tutoring experience. He offers a wide range of academic subjects from K-College, specializing in SAT & ACT prep and college admissions applications. Jake has built a network of exceptional undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges across the nation. Holding a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University, Jake combines his educational background with his expertise to deliver effective and comprehensive tutoring services.

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