College Reference Letter (6+ Sample Letters & Writing Guidelines)

College reference

A college reference letter is a document that is prepared by a person who knows the subject of the document professionally. This document is usually prepared in order to introduce the subject to a particular college where they seek admission. This document is usually prepared by a teacher who has professional knowledge of the subject’s characteristics and convictions. This document can also be prepared by an employer who has had a professional relationship with the subject. This document is always positive in nature and as such should be prepared by someone who has had positive experiences with the subject.

Note: In this guide, we are referring (Subject) as a person who require to write this reference letter.

This document is usually requested by the subject when they are seeking admission to a college in order to pursue higher education. This does not mean that it is restricted to high school graduates only. College reference letters are also required when a person is applying for professional colleges such as Law school and Medical school. It is also a requirement when you are applying for a postgraduate degree programme, even if it is in the same college where you pursue your undergraduate degree.

Why Use a College Recommendation Letter?

Many colleges require applicants to present recommendation letters. But even if not necessarily required, recommendation letters can help you build the case for admission.

Recommendation letters not only matter for what they say, but they also add some value to an application just for being included. Even if the admissions office fails to go through the letter carefully, they are more likely to note that the reference letters have been included with the application and that the applicant is the type of person who can drum up recommendations – an endearing quality all on its own. 

Who and How to Select the Right Person to Write the Letter?

A counselor, teacher, or coach are ideal choices and should be able to state the facts about the candidate, including being able to describe their personality traits, skills, and work habits. Additionally, the person chosen by the candidate should be someone that they have had a relationship with outside the normal hours of schools such as sports teams, volunteer programs, or academic clubs.

The plus side to this is that universities and colleges understand that, other than the full curriculum, students normally undertake various activities apart from schoolwork.

How to Format the Letter?

A standard recommendation letter should fill an entire page (normally between 400-500 words) and contain a general introduction, 2 paragraphs, and a conclusion. The letter should describe the candidate in a way that properly highlights both their skills and academic achievements. If well written, the letter will provide a comprehensive picture of the candidate, which goes far beyond their grades and personal resume.

  1. Introduction: The introduction paragraph should be brief and to the point. Normally 2-6 sentences that, more or less, describe your relationship with the candidate.  
  2. Paragraph 1: The first paragraph of the body of the recommendation letter should highlight the positive qualities of the candidate as well as list their achievements and awards if any, that they may have garnered.
  3. Paragraph 2: The second paragraph should expand upon the first one, emphasizing the candidate’s participation in school activities, citing relevant examples of their positive traits. When writing the letter, try to connect the student’s interests and aptitudes to paint a memorable and coherent portrait.
  4. Conclusion: The last paragraph should be anywhere from 2-4 sentences long and should summarize the author’s recommendation of the candidate and also provide a contact method for further questions or clarifications.

What to Include in the Reference Letter?

Contents of a College Reference Letter

There are a number of elements that a professionally written college reference letter should have. These elements are:

  • The letter should be addressed to a particular college, this means that the writer should make sure that he is writing to the intended college that the subject has applied to. The subject’s description should be tailored to that particular school.
  • The letter should explain the relationship between you the writer and the subject. This should appear at the beginning of the letter. For a teacher; this section should explain the number of courses the subject took with you and for an employer, it should explain the role of the subject in the organization as well as for how long they have worked there.
  • Be specific, this means that as a writer you should use specific examples that illustrates the subject’s skills and strengths. Therefore it is essential that you avoid general descriptions like hard working and so on.
  • Make sure that you provide your up to date contact information so that if the school has any follow up questions, you are readily available.

College Reference Letter Samples

When you are not sure of how to structure your college reference letter, there are a number of free college reference letter samples and templates provided here. For sample letters, you should take the context and gist it and compose your own. For templates, on the other hand, you take the letter as is and you just replace the names and contact information.

Sample College Reference letter

Dear The Admissions Committee ABC College,

I have Known Karen Smith for a period of four years. She has been my star student in Mathematics and Chemistry. She possesses excellent leadership skills as exhibited by being the chairperson of our mathlete club of which I am the patron.

While at my school, Karen Smith always strived for excellence in everything she did. She was captain of the swimming team, which she led to the regional finals. She also ran an outreach program for local disadvantaged teens, which earned her the mayor’s recognition. As a person and a leader, she is exceptional.

I do believe Karen Smith will definitely be an excellent addition to your student community, both academically and outside the classroom. If you need extra information please contact me during office hours through this number: 777 777 777 or electronically through [email protected]

Sincerely,
Ed Miles,
Mathematics and Science, Head of Department,
Portmore High School

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