Many times, admissions offices put a great emphasis on recommendations letters especially in cases of selective admissions. In a mountain of thousands of qualified students, a recommendation letter differentiates a student from the rest and give them a spot. Often, admissions offices look for two things in a recommendation letter; in-depth insight about a student’s academic and personal skills, and a student’s potential to add or contribute to the university or college community.
A recommendation letter puts the referee in a position to vouch for the student’s abilities or personal qualities. For instance, speak about their integrity, leadership skills or compassion among others. The descriptions give the admissions office a holistic perspective of the student that is beyond what is seen in the grades or application letter.
A recommendation letter can be used to highlight the best qualities of the student or their success and their potential to achieve more in future. Since application letter may not be so obvious, a recommendation letter will go a long way in motivating the admission’s office to consider their admission. So, how do you write a recommendation letter?
Formatting a Student Recommendation Letter
A recommendation letter is divided into four main parts;
Like any other letter, salutation is needed although not a must. For an official letter of recommendation, the phrase ‘to whom it may concern’ may suffice.
This is the part you introduce the person and how you know them. You can state how long you have known them and how you have been involved in their journey. Also be sure to include who you are to the student or the position you hold.
This part carries the bulk of the letter. It is here where you build a compelling case for the individual, mentioning their capabilities, strengths and related academic and personal achievements. In the body, the main focus is to make the individual stand out but at the same time give credible information. You can state a few things about the person’s leadership skills, personal skills, personality, strong characters and anything that might give them more points and an advantage over their competitors.
This is the last section of the letter where you sign off. Remember that a strong closing remark maybe the torpedo that propels the student to admission, so make it the best. Also, give your contact details in case the office wants to contact you for further information or clarification.
How to write the best Letter of Recommendation for Student
Writing a reference letter for student is similar to writing a reference letter for an employee but have few key point changes.
Include Key Content
A recommendation letter should not be a repetition of what has already been stated in the application letter like grades, awards, and clubs. Remember that the admission’s office is looking for more insight. However, this does not mean you cannot mention what the student has achieved. For instance, you can mention something the student started which portrays their capability to be initiative driven. For example, mentioning that the student started a movement targeting to get rid of stigma accosted to LGBT students in the school. While the recommender does to have to necessarily have to have all the answers, they should include information that will demonstrate the student’s specific skills, passion, talents and intellectual curiosity. A strong letter of recommendation gives insights into the student’s motivations, intellectual orientation, and personal qualities.
State the crucial themes
The same way you do not go about repeating the same things listed in the application letter, you do not state all the qualities making the student great. In most cases, while an all rounded student might pass as exceptional, it might not be what the admissions office is looking for. Many times a student’s singular achievement in a specific area may go a long way than many activities. This is because it shows a student’s ability to focus on an initiative and their passion and commitment towards it. Focusing on the most important themes will highlight the student’s dedication and ability to maintain long-term goals which is what many institutions look for in new applicants. Once you identify specific themes, you could include a story or observation if there is to support your claim.
Offer specific instances
Sentences paint a clear picture of the student, yes, but an example makes the picture vivid. Giving specific examples of a student’s abilities or achievements offer grounds to which the teacher has concluded. Examples also make the letter interesting. However, you ought to be careful not to get carried away and give a long story since it might beat the whole purpose of the recommendation letter being official. You should give examples that prove you as the recommender is qualified to assess the student. That is, a class teacher may be in a better position to know the student due to long contact.
Employ powerful words
Forget the cliché phrases to describe the student, most of the admission’s offices are used to them. You need to make the student stand out. Using phrases like ‘go-getter, a friend with a golden heart’ and the others will get the letter as far as eliciting a yawn and a roll of the eyes. Picture this, using the words ‘hard-working’ to describe a student and using ‘intellectual risk-taker.’ You have to admit, the phrase ‘intellectual risk-taker sounds more powerful and is likely to make the admissions officer to glow up. Some of the strong words to describe academic excellence include; insightful, curious, innovative, observant, analytical, etc. to describe the character you can use; flexible, empathetic, leader, ethical, motivated, and ambitious.
Lastly, you can rank the student accordingly if needs be and state all the essential information. Remember that you are recommending the student for a special stage of their life and they have trusted you to make it possible to pass it. The key things to highlight are the student’s academic potential, personality, and character. Also, mention any other detail you think might make it easier for the admissions office to get a deeper understanding of what the student can do.
Sample 1: Recommendation letter for Students Applying to College
Dear Admissions Committee,
I am greatly honored to recommend Susan for admission in your institution for an engineering program. In my 5 years as her class teacher, she has proved to be an exceptional student in all aspects. I taught Susan physics for the last 4 years and even recommended her to pursue a course in robotics. That is why it gladdens me to realize she has been ranked as the best student in her class. Her keen interest in physics, science, and math cupped with advanced skills in practical physics applications will make her fit for your comprehensive engineering program.
When it comes to personal intelligence, Susan is a sharp, quick and perceptive with a significantly high aptitude for sciences. One thing I have come to know about her is her passion for computers where she has demonstrated curiosity to understand what holds what together. This has been demonstrated in her tendency to open up old computers in the school library and try to fix broken drives.
Susan has in her time here demonstrated strong leadership skills as the leader of the robotics club where she has been described by students as always being ready to assist. She is also a charismatic scholar as evidenced in a time she came to make a presentation on the solar system. Her presentation was ranked as the most fascinating, and fun of all and it left everyone talking about it. In my physics teaching career, she was the only student teacher to inspire such deserved applause after her presentation.
Susan is an outgoing person with a great sense of humor. She is easily likable and the perfect person to get a group rolling. Her cheerful character makes her easily approachable which goes a long way into impacting other students academically considering her academic prowess.
I highly recommend Susan for your admission to the engineering program. She has shown exceptionalism and excellence in what she sets her mind on; whether a class project or club initiatives. She has the potential to make a difference in the scientific world if provided with the resources in your institution. She is a phenomenal student. In case you need clarification or have inquiries feel free to contact me on my email provided below for more information.
High Achievers High School
Sample 2: For Students Applying for Graduate Courses
To whom it may concern,
I am Smith, a professor in the department of sociology at County State college. I am greatly honored to write to you concerning one of my students, Will, who applied for an MBA in sociology in your institution.
Will completed his graduate sociology program with an aggregate score of 84% which is the highest score I have recorded since I started teaching sociology 10 years ago. Will is an exceptional student who has demonstrated excellent communication and social skills which are vital to the course. He is also a great orator nicknamed the ‘Martin Luther’ of his debate club which gave him a large following.
For a long time, he has aspired to pursue an MBA in your institution after which he seeks to pursue his ambitions of starting his own social work center. He is one of the only students who has demonstrated empathy and compassion for his community and expressed that he aims to start his social work center to give back to the less fortunate in his society.
I strongly recommend this student for your MBA sociology program. Not because he is the most brilliant or intelligent student ever, but because he possesses the best leadership and people skills and admirable personalities. These are the core qualities needed to make an excellent sociologist. Do not hesitate to contact me on my email for more information.
County State College
Sample 3: For People Applying for Scholarships
To whom it may concern,
I am pleased to recommend Mr. Tom for the coca cola scholarship running for 2 years at the University of South Wales.
I have taught Mr. Tom for the last 4 years at the University of California, and I can say for sure that he has a great passion for art as demonstrated in his masterpiece art projects. He is one of the few students ever to have their art piece featured in the inter-campus art competitions where he emerged the first runners-up, missing the first prize with a few points.
Tom is an intellectual risk taker who is not afraid to pursue different areas of art, and that is what makes his art pieces so unique. I believe that with the facilities available at the University of South Wales he could grow to become the Picasso of his time. Over his period here, he has demonstrated intense, almost religious dedication to his arts, always striving to improve them as he can.
This scholarship could go a long way to offer him the last ingredient he has been missing to be great. He holds so much potential to be a great artist and painter if provided with proper mentoring, equipment and environment. I believe the University of South Wales is the perfect place for him.
From my time working with him on his last project which was mind-blowing, I highly recommend him for that scholarship. I have observed what he is capable of and I can say for sure he has the potential to be a phenomenal artist. In case you need clarification or have inquiries, contact me via my email for more information.
University of California