How to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student

Do you want to learn how to write a recommendation letter for a student including samples and formats that will guide you? If Yes, then conscientiously read this article to get the tips you need.

When students apply for a master’s or doctoral degree, they will be required to submit a letter of recommendation or two from a professor. These letters serve as proof of the student’s academic ability. That’s why letters of recommendation are an important part of a student’s university study application.

We have decided to use this article as a medium to provide a detailed guide to writing strong letters of recommendation and sample letters of recommendation for your students.

How to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student

What is a letter of recommendation?

A professor or teacher writes letters of recommendation to shine light on a student’s abilities and character.

A student will need a letter of recommendation to be able to get into an academic program or start their career.

Letters of recommendation show universities and companies what the recommender thinks about the applicant’s qualifications—his or her skills, strengths, and what they have accomplished.

Who should you write a letter of recommendation for?

You may receive letters of recommendation request from various students. While it’s true that this can boost an application, know that this can come back to you in a negative way.

Some students may want to ask their department chair or a well-known researcher who does not know them well to write a letter of recommendation for them.

However, if they’ve never taken a class with this department chair or researcher, letters of recommendation will only draw suspicion from the admissions committee. The admissions committee has the student’s transcript and is aware of the courses and modules completed by the student.

The recommended letters of recommendation should come from professors or teachers who know the student better. Think carefully before agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for a student.

Students for whom a letter of recommendation should be written:

  • Students who have completed a course you handle
  • Students who have helped you with your research
  • Students whose projects you supervise
  • The students who are under your mentorship

Furthermore, a recommendation should be written for someone whose potential and abilities you truly believe in. If you get letters of recommendation requests from students you don’t know well, refer them to other professors, or teachers.

Why are letters of recommendation important?

When entering higher education degree programs, schools prefer to focus not only on individual grades or exams but look at a holistic view of students.

As a recent graduate looking for a job, you don’t have much work experience or past colleagues to judge your character, work ethic, and dedication.

In both cases, letters of recommendation from professors, supervisors, or lecturers can be helpful. These letters play an important role in showing a student’s intelligence, personality and qualities.

That’s why letters of recommendation from teachers go a long way in applying for such positions. A letter that demonstrates strong support, highlights a student’s academic excellence and personal strengths and demonstrates how they will benefit the organization can greatly impact a student’s chances of being accepted into a program or job offer.

Also Read: How to write a cover letter for scholarship – Samples and PDFs

Student recommendation letter format

The writer’s contact information and information about the recipient should be the start of a recommendation letter. Then, after the greeting, the author introduces himself and immediately begins to describe the characteristics of the students he recommends.

Finally, the writer closes the letter by signing “Sincerely” and their name. Below is the format you need to write a recommendation letter for a student.

1. Contact information

Letters of recommendation are usually sent as official printed letters. It is important that you begin with your contact information (name, title, email address, phone number) and recipient information.

2. Greeting

It is best if you have the name of the person you are writing the letter of recommendation to. If so, start with a greeting: “Dear Mr. Jim, Dear Dr. Grant.” If not, you can address the letter to the manager responsible for hiring.

Avoid vague greetings like “To Whom It May Concern” unless you have no other choice.

3. The first paragraph

Keep this part short and sweet. Just mention your name, title, student’s name and how you know them. Also, note how long you’ve known them.

4. Second and third paragraph: Student characteristics

These sections focus on student’s academic and personal achievements. Discuss what they have to offer, why they are qualified, and what makes them the right person for the opportunity.

In addition to their academic achievements, highlight their contributions outside of work. Mention their qualities and traits and demonstrate their academic excellence.

5. Forth paragraph: Conclusion

This paragraph is a short paragraph about why you recommend this student. Let readers know that you recommend the person without reservation and that you know they will do well in their role once accepted.

6. Fifth paragraph: Conclusion

Time to finish up your letter. Mention that you would like to be contacted for more information. Please share your email address and phone number for further discussions.

7. Conclusion of the letter

Sign your letter with a closing that is official, name and title. If you are sending a printed letter, you can also write your name as shown below.

  • Regards
  • Signature
  • Your Name
  • Title

Also Read: Motivation Letter for Scholarship Application: PDFs Samples/Guidelines

Tips for writing letters of recommendation

There are a few things to keep in mind when you want to write a letter of recommendation that would be perceived as a strong one. This is an important part of your communication with the hiring manager or admissions counsellor about your student’s future.

That’s why it’s so important to write it as well as possible. As you begin writing letters of recommendation, keep these tips in mind when you are to write a recommendation letter for a student:

1. Stay positive

Now is not the time to mention mistakes your students made in the past during a thesis presentation or an argument with a classmate.

You are writing this letter of recommendation because you believe this student is the best candidate for the position or degree. So don’t add any other contradictory statements.

2. Use standard business letter formats

Letters of recommendation are a formal form of communication between you and a company or university. Therefore, it is very important to follow the format of the business letter.

The tone of the letter should also be professional and formal. Do not use jargon or slang. Remember that you are a professional talking to another professional.

Taryn A. Myers, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Wesleyan University, opposes the use of gendered language.

“Sometimes people write about how ‘cute’ or ‘friendly’ a student is without emphasizing their intelligence and accomplishments,” she said. “It is a disservice to women graduates if the letter does not mention research or other academic achievements.”

3. Focus on qualifications that are important

It might be tempting to add some of the qualifications and achievements that students you know have accumulated over the years.

You can discuss two or three of their accomplishments that make them the perfect candidate for the position and then elaborate.

Try to stick to the ones that best match the job description. Give concrete examples to show that the student fits the role.

4. Follow the instructions

Before you start writing, it is okay to ask the students for instructions that you need to know. Ask them how the letter will be sent if specific sections need to be added (some colleges offer questionnaires to be answered in the letter), and deadlines for submissions.

Make sure you have everything you need to write up-to-date and valuable letters of recommendation for students so they don’t negatively impact their application.

University lecturer Colleen Stevenson recommends following the letter of recommendation requirements. He said, “The most important part of a letter of recommendation is the reason. What do they really want?

Do they want to know that this student got the best grade in the class, or do they want to know that they were a good student with good attitudes and participated well in class?

Do not just use templates, you should check the requirements for that specific program or position and make sure you completely address them in the letter.

Also Read: Motivation Letter For Job Application Example

Tips for writing University recommendation letters

Are you to write a recommendation letter for a student who is specifically looking to gain admission to a university, below are some of the things you need to bear in mind.

  • Ask students about their education
    • You probably have a lot of students, so you don’t need to remember specific student information. It’s a good idea to ask students to give you important information before you start writing.
  • Write the school and program names correctly
    • Students often apply for several courses/programs at the same time. Be sure to spell the name correctly when writing your letter of recommendation.
  • Letters of recommendation tailored to the program
    • When writing letters of recommendation, read the program’s website and highlight the student’s strengths and characteristics accordingly.

How to write letters of recommendation for students

If you’ve never written a letter of recommendation before, this can be overwhelming. You may not know what to add, what to remove and how to format the content.

Let’s look at five things to keep in mind when writing a letter of recommendation.

1. Start with a short introduction

Letters of recommendation should begin with a statement of your reliability as a student mentor.

Letters of recommendation begin with who you are, including your position, the subjects you teach, or the specific courses you teach to the student you are writing for. Mention your qualifications to speak for students as a tutor or lecturer.

If the student you are recommending has never been in your class, you should list the student’s role as an extracurricular activities coordinator or the club the person is active in. It is important to show your relationship with your students so that your opinion of them is seen as credible.

2. Address the recipient directly

If you want to make this letter more personal to the person you are sending it to, you can address it directly. Find out the name of the person to whom the letter of recommendation should be sent and write it as if you were talking to them.

Also, describe the person’s role in the application process. For example, if it’s a hiring manager, you can tell them how the student will be a great addition to the team.

If the letter is for a university student applying for a degree at the graduate level of studies, you can address the letter to their program director or admission counsellor.

Enquire from the student if he or she would want to use the same letter of recommendation for different schools or companies. If so, the best way to help them is to write a letter that is generic.

3. Emphasize the student’s qualifications

It’s time to highlight the illustrious academic careers of students.

The aim of this section is to demonstrate all the virtues that make the student a good candidate for a university or company.

You don’t have to stick to just a list of facts and features. Instead, focus on anecdotes to tell students’ stories.

Select features or qualities of the student you are to write a recommendation letter for and support them with evidence. If you mention their motivation and dedication to the subject, show it with a short story. You can talk about their academic career as a whole or focus on individual highlights and achievements. Be sure to make small, measurable statements about their progress.

If you have known them for some time, you can share your impressions of the student and how you have seen them mature and grow into responsible and committed adults. If you have an example, show how they impressed you in class.

Highlight the courses or projects completed by the student that is most important for the job or graduate degree.

Also Read: How to Write an Erasmus Motivation Letter

4. Name personal qualities

This section of the letter of recommendation highlights the student’s personal qualities.

It’s time to focus on student behaviour and quality outside the classroom.

You can combine their various interests and involvement in school activities to create unforgettable portraits of them.

Discuss how they participated in extracurricular activities. Describe what they are as individuals. If they have leadership qualities, show them. How do their hobbies or interests increase their potential as a student or workers?

Do they go out of their way to help their classmates? What qualities make them ideal for this graduate program or job? Why should a hiring manager or recruitment consultant consider them over hundreds of other candidates? Did they overcome particular difficulties to continue their studies?

5. Close the letter of recommendation

The closing part of the letter is also important as the starting part of the letter.

There are two important parts of this particular section:

1. Reinforce your recommendation of this student and also provide contact details through which you can be communicated in case there is a need to contact you (email or phone number).

2. Give a final recommendation of why you think he/she is the best person for the job or admission.

Recommendation Letter VS Reference Letter

We have taken the time to talk about how to write a letter of recommendation for a student, we should also look at the difference between a recommendation letter and a reference letter

As much as you have heard about recommendation letters you have also heard about reference letters, but we want to know the difference between these terms.

Although reference letters and letters of recommendation are similar and often used interchangeably, there are differences between the two.

A student’s letter of recommendation is required for admission to a particular academic program, while a student’s reference recommendation relates to the general and more holistic character assessment of the student.


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