3 Sample Recommendation Letters for Students
July 3, 2023
In most cases, recommendation letters are a standard requirement for the college admissions process. Admissions boards use these letters to better understand the applicant’s promising qualities and characteristics that a transcript may not fully demonstrate. When you submit a strong letter, it can increase your chances of success in a large and competitive applicant pool. But do you know how a strong letter of recommendation sounds? What makes it memorable? Before you request letters of recommendation, it can be helpful to review a sample recommendation letter for college. That way, you can determine what will differentiate your application from the rest. Whether you need to write a recommendation letter for student success or are college-bound yourself, the following sample recommendation letters for students will help you better define how a winning letter should sound.
Firstly, it’s important to ensure you follow all guidelines before submitting a recommendation letter. For example, some colleges may require a teacher and counselor recommendation. Most universities will outline their expectations for how many letters are required and from whom the letter should come. Professional contacts like former or current teachers, employers, and coaches are excellent sources. Ideally, the person you ask should be familiar with your work ethic and personality in addition to your academic achievements.
Let’s take a look at some sample recommendation letters for college. As you read, imagine this letter has just come across your desk. Think about whether or not this letter would stick out to you.
The first sample recommends Isabelle, a high school senior who is interested in studying psychology and is also a student-athlete.
Sample Recommendation Letter for Student: Example #1
Dear Admissions Committee,
I had the pleasure of coaching Isabelle throughout her four years at Lewis and Clark High School. From her first day at try-outs, she impressed me with her incredible determination, her commitment to uplifting her team members, and her ability to balance her schoolwork with basketball. She prioritized her classes even throughout the height of the season. Isabelle is a hard worker with the drive to succeed in all facets of her life, and she has my highest recommendation as a student and an athlete.
During her junior year, Isabelle assumed the leadership position of team captain. In this role, Isabelle led by example. She was quick to demonstrate sportsmanship and kindness through tough losses, communicated effectively with team members, and encouraged new members when they made mistakes. Without my prompting, Isabelle took new players aside to coach them through our drills if they needed extra help. Isabelle was eager to spend time with the new recruits. She ensured they put their best foot forward and also made them feel included and valued. Isabelle is a wonderful communicator, and I imagine this quality will serve her well as she studies psychology and works with future clients in a one-on-one setting.
Recommendation Letter Sample for Student #1 (Continued)
Throughout the school year, Isabelle was an active participant in events outside of the court. She led and organized athletic fundraisers and was elected president of the Student-Athlete Association. She created presentations for her peers and served as a mentor for the underclassmen. All the while, Isabelle continued to demonstrate punctuality by showing up on time for practice and maintaining an optimistic and energetic attitude.
I am certain Isabelle will continue to succeed and accomplish great things in her future. I highly recommend her for admission to your undergraduate program. Isabelle is a talented, compassionate, and highly-driven student who continually strives to better herself and those around her. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Lewis and Clark High School
Even though this is a sample recommendation letter for college, imagine you have the opportunity to invite Isabelle into the undergraduate program. Does she sound like a promising candidate?
Why it Works
Obviously, Coach Anderson holds Isabelle in high regard. One way she demonstrates how much she appreciates Isabelle’s efforts is by using specific examples to demonstrate Isabelle’s impressive qualities. Instead of simply saying Isabelle is a dedicated student, Coach Anderson tells us what organizations Isabelle is involved in. She even tells us what some of Isabelle’s responsibilities are and how she has assumed leadership positions in these roles.
Similarly, Coach Anderson also highlights how Isabelle’s work ethic will help her succeed in her future career goals and college major. Isabelle’s ability to communicate well with her teammates will help her create meaningful and important relationships with her future clients. Isabelle has the right kind of demeanor for the career she wants to pursue.
When writing the recommendation letter for student applications, Coach Anderson’s admiration reads clearly because she thoughtfully recalls Isabelle’s accomplishments. Coach Anderson’s enthusiasm will certainly make the recommendation letter more memorable, as it shows Isabelle’s genuine connection with her coach.
Let’s look at another sample recommendation letter for college. This sample will recommend Jacob, a high school senior who is interested in studying biology. Let’s see if this letter is as successful as the first one.
Sample Recommendation Letter for Student: Example #2
Dear Admissions Committee,
Jacob was my student in AP Biology his senior year, and I had the great pleasure of working with him during that time. Throughout the academic year, Jacob impressed me not only with his natural aptitude for science but also with his curiosity and ingenuity. His dedication to exploring new concepts and procedures, even outside of the classroom, marked him as one of my most impressive students. Jacob has my highest recommendation, as I believe he will continue to succeed at the next level of scientific research.
Jacob is an inquisitive student whose motivation drives him to look for new opportunities. I am the supervisor for the Robotics Club at Robinson High School, and Jacob approached me about joining even before classes began. With each new project I assigned, Jacob constantly went above and beyond what was asked of him. He admitted to me that in his free time, he learned how to better utilize the codes I taught and worked hard to understand what confused him. Jacob is naturally curious about how things work together and is always willing to put in the time to figure it out.
Recommendation Letter Sample for Student #2 (Continued)
In the classroom, Jacob is an attentive and eager student. All of his assignments are rendered with thoughtfulness and great attention to detail. Jacob’s understanding of the classroom material is so great that he tutors underclassmen in biology. However, he never falls behind on his own assignments and always prioritizes his own workload. In fact, Jacob submitted a research thesis to a national competition in the fall and won third place. His research in artificial tissue production far surpasses the caliber I usually expect from my students. I know Jacob wants to continue this avenue of research at the university, and I believe he already has a solid foundation.
I imagine Jacob’s independence and motivation will serve him well as he continues on in a university lab. He is a self-starter with the initiative and drive that will help him succeed at any university he attends. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
AP Biology Instructor
Robinson High School
Does this recommendation letter for student Jacob pique your interest more than the recommendation letter for student Isabelle? They are both strong letters but for varied reasons.
Why it Works
Like the first one we read, this sample recommendation letter for college also utilizes specific examples to help us understand why Jacob would be a good fit for a university lab. Ms. Patterson knows Jacob as both her student in AP biology and as a member of the robotics club. She is sure to emphasize how Jacob’s inquisitive nature helped him succeed in both of these environments.
A different but equally important quality of this letter is that Ms. Patterson is sure to mention the work Jacob has completed outside of the classroom. Not only does Jacob tutor other students, but also he continues to study helpful skills, like coding, in his spare time. From these examples, we infer Jacob works well with others and is highly motivated.
Ms. Patterson also made sure to highlight Jacob’s prize-winning thesis. The work Jacob has already completed in high school is the perfect foundation for the research he wants to continue in college. In this way, Jacob is already prepared for the rigor and challenge of a college course. This example shows that he’s a student who is willing to take ownership of his assignments and displays great initiative.
Let’s take a look at one final sample letter of recommendation for college. This one is for Wendy, a high school senior who is interested in studying English literature.
Sample Recommendation Letter for Student: Example #3
Dear Admissions Committee,
Wendy was my student in English class her freshman year. She is a very thoughtful student who enjoys reading and writing. I always saw her nose in a book. I remember that her essays were perceptive, and she integrated quotes from her research well. Further, I believe she will succeed at studying literature. For that reason, Wendy has my recommendation.
Wendy enjoys reading nonfiction. I remember she liked to learn about different historical eras, as several of her essays covered earlier time periods. She reads every day and takes diligent notes on what she reads. Wendy always scored highly on her reading comprehension examination
Because of these reasons, I believe Wendy will be a good fit for your school. She is a dedicated student. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
Fields High School
How do you think this sample recommendation letter for college portrays Wendy? Is this sample stronger or weaker than the first two?
Strengthening the Letter of Recommendation
In this sample recommendation letter for college, Wendy’s qualities are vague and generic. Of course, an admissions board would assume that any student applying for an English literature degree would enjoy reading and writing. But what makes Wendy a unique candidate? Mr. Riley fails to denote any of Wendy’s specific strengths and qualities.
It is also unclear how authentic the relationship is between Mr. Riley and Wendy. It sounds like Mr. Riley had Wendy in class only once, and this happened many years ago. While Mr. Riley may have remembered her as a good student, he is not specific about why.
Finally, the letter is too short. Generally, it is a good rule of thumb to allow for at least three full paragraphs. Mr. Riley’s paragraphs feature clipped sentences, and the letter cuts off abruptly. This taut style of writing suggests that perhaps Mr. Riley does not know Wendy very well. Therefore, it feels like he is struggling to write this recommendation.
Sample Recommendation Letter for Student – Final Thoughts
After reviewing each sample recommendation letter for college, it should be clear that above all, admissions boards seek specificity. The more detailed and thorough the examples of a student’s admirable qualities, the better. The goal is to leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee members.
Similarly, it is also important to understand how the prospective student will be a good fit for the college. In Isabelle’s example, we imagine that she could become a successful mentor for her peers and a great leader. In Jacob’s example, we imagine that he will continue the research he has already completed at a higher caliber.
Undeniably, recommendation letters are an important component of the admissions process. In each sample recommendation letter for college, we outlined helpful attributes to look out for. These qualities will be sure to help your writing shine. So, while asking for a letter or even writing one may feel a bit overwhelming, don’t stress! Follow these guidelines, and you will be sure to set your recommendation letter apart from the crowd.