How to Write a Recommendation for a Student in 6 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated May 27, 2022 | Published October 7, 2019

Updated May 27, 2022

Published October 7, 2019

A letter of recommendation from a teacher or mentor is important when a student applies to a university or a job. By writing the letter, you act as a character witness to a university or company on the student’s behalf. If you write an honest and positive letter of recommendation for a student, it can help them stand out from other applicants.

In this article, we provide steps and examples to help you write an effective letter of recommendation for a student.

Key takeaways:

  • Only write a recommendation letter for a student whose qualifications you can speak to directly.

  • Get submission details including the recipient’s name and email and the due date.

  • Ask for an up-to-date resume and details about the opportunity for which they need a reference.

  • Include specific examples of their relevant qualities, experiences and skills.

What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a document that highlights a person’s character traits and work ethic to aid them in their application process. A student may use a letter of recommendation to help them enter an academic program or a career. Someone who has spent time with them in an academic or professional setting often writes the letter. It provides universities or companies a reference’s account of an applicant’s qualifications, including their skills, strengths, goals and accomplishments.

Recommendation Letter Format

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Recommendation Letter Format

  1. Introduction and statement of recommendation

  2. List of specific reasons you are recommending them to the position

  3. Personal story with evidence of their qualities (soft and hard skills)

  4. Closing statement with contact information

  5. Signature

Read more: How To Write a Letter of Recommendation (With Examples)

How to write a recommendation letter for a student

Here are steps to help you write a letter of recommendation for a student:\

1. Ask the student for academic information

First, ask your student for a list of academic achievements, extracurricular activities and their grade point average (GPA). Also ask for information about the program, university or job they’re applying to. This information will help you tailor your letter. Your goal is to be an advocate for the student and help support and highlight their success.

If the student is applying for a job, ask to review their resume so you can better understand their professional or academic background. You can also request the job description to best identify how the student can succeed in the role.

If the student is applying to a university or other program, you can ask to review the personal essay they are likely submitting. To learn more about the student, you can also ask why they’re applying, what they want to achieve and what they hope to gain from the opportunity. You can include your perspective on this information in your letter.

Related: How To List Education on a Resume

2. Address your letter accordingly

Addressing your letter properly can ensure it reaches the correct person and even makes the recommendation seem more personalized for the reader. Ask the student to who the letter should be addressed, including the person’s role in the application process. You may address the letter to a hiring manager, department head, admissions counselor or program director. If the student does not have a specific person to address the letter to, you can also address your recommendation to a company’s human resources department or a college’s admissions office.

If the student is applying to several universities or companies, keep the letter general, but try to highlight their suitable attributes. For example, the student may be applying to several technical schools with the hopes of becoming a software engineer. Knowing this, you can focus on the student’s achievements in the computer sciences and provide an example of one of their successful projects or science awards.

Related: How To Address a Cover Letter (With Examples)

3. Introduce yourself and your qualifications

Your credibility offers an admissions board or employer a valued opinion about the candidate. At the beginning of your letter, identify who you are and how you’re qualified to speak on the student’s behalf. Include your job title.

4. Include details about your academic relationship with the student

Continue your introduction by discussing how long you’ve known the student and in what capacity. This item can be an extension of your job title, directly identifying your role in the student’s academic career. You can also describe your first impressions of the student and how you’ve watched them develop into a well-rounded student. Consider phrasing your perspective of the student in terms of how they surprised or impressed you in the classroom, on their assignments or in other academic settings.

Related: The New Graduate's Guide to Job Search

5. Highlight the student’s qualifications with examples

Many universities and companies often look for candidates they believe can contribute to and improve the organization. A hiring manager may want to read about how the student can help grow their business and positively contribute to company culture. The admissions counselor may want to know if a student is likely to join clubs and organizations, be active in their education and assist their peers.

Consider who is reading your letter of recommendation, and include examples and information about how the student will benefit the university or company. Illustrate their potential success by showing the contributions they made to your school. Your examples can be drawn from their resume or academic information, including items such as:

  • Sports

  • Clubs

  • Volunteering

  • Competitions, awards and recognitions

  • Individual or group projects

  • Presentations and public speaking opportunities

  • Leadership roles such as captain of a team or president of a club

  • Academic excellence such as improved or maintained grades 

6. Conclude your letter

You can end your letter by restating your support of the student’s qualifications and offer to remain available should the reader have more questions about your recommendation and experience with the student. Consider including a few options for them to contact you, such as a phone number where you can be available and your email address. This final step can show the company or university that you believe in the student’s abilities and fully endorse them for the program or role, which may influence their decision in selecting the student.

Read more: How To End a Letter

Examples of student recommendation letters

Here are two samples you can use as inspiration to help you write a recommendation letter for a student:

Example 1: Recommendation letter for a student applying to college

Dear Mrs. Langley,

My name is Jonathan Weasley, and I have had the pleasure of teaching and coaching Rachel Cortez at Summer Park High School. I’m head of the math department and had Rachel in my Calculus 4 class this past year. In addition to her drive for academic excellence, I’ve also coached her on the golf team for the past four years where she embodied the essence of humility and sportsmanship. Therefore, I highly recommend Rachel for acceptance into the Accelerated Business Program at South Vermont University this fall.

Rachel has always demonstrated ambition and maturity on the green and in the classroom. She is genuinely interested in developing her skills and challenging her abilities as well as being a great role model for her peers. She has impressed me with her calm and calculated attitude. She always shows kindness toward other athletes and keeps a positive attitude during tournaments.

I believe a great athlete is someone who shows positivity even when they lose, and that is exactly how I can describe Rachel. This is why I chose her to be the captain of the Summer Park High Lions' girls golf team.

I believe South Vermont University will benefit from Rachel’s ambitious nature, friendly attitude and affinity to lead others. These attributes and so much more will make Rachel the right candidate for the Accelerated Business Program at SVU.

I’d be happy to discuss more of Rachel’s accolades in the classroom and on the green. You can reach me by phone at 657-987-0023 or by email at jweasley@summerparkhighschool.edu.

Sincerest regards,
Jonathon Weasley
Calculus Teacher at Summer Park High School

Related: 6 Job Search Tips for High School Students

Example 2: Recommendation letter for a student applying for a job

Dear Mr. Benson,

My name is Jennifer Greystone, and I teach Honors English at Miller Heights High School for grades 11 and 12. I have taught and worked in several organizations with Michael Boyle for the past four years at Miller Heights. I’m always impressed by his ability to lead and mentor his peers. He exemplifies humility and maturity in the classroom and during extracurricular activities. I therefore highly recommend Michael as your Human Resources Assistant.

Michael led students as the vice president of the Student Safety Committee to make the MHHS campus safer. He helped the school implement new crosswalks in the student parking lot and drop-off zones after many students and parents voiced their concerns during a community forum. The local news stations covered the story as well and deemed Michael a “kid who truly cares about his peers.”

In addition to his passion to lead, Michael has demonstrated an ability to support his classmates in my Honors English class. During a group project, Michael offered to tutor a classmate who was struggling with 20th-century literature. He successfully helped that student better understand the symbolism of the content, improving the student’s essays and insights during class discussions.

I highly recommend Michael as your Human Resources Assistant. He is an invaluable resource to this school, and I know he will make an incredible colleague.

Please let me know if you would like to discuss Michael’s character and attributes further. You can reach me by phone at 756-432-1198 or by email at jgreystone@millerheightshighschool.edu.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Greystone
English Teacher at Miller Heights High School


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