The question, “Will you write my letter of recommendation for college?” can strike fear in the most intrepid of souls. Everyone is aware of how important this letter is and the impact it has upon the college application process. How do you praise the student and sound sincere? Should you mention any character flaws or issues of which you are aware? Finding good solutions to these dilemmas is often stressful and time consuming.Of course, the biggest concern for the letter writer is ruining students’ chances of getting into the college of their choice. A poorly written letter may not give them the extra boost they need to put them into the “admit” pile. Relax, take a deep breath, and know that help is here. Study our recommendation letter for college templates for great ideas. You’ll have an outstanding letter ready to go in no time at all.
Recommendation Letter for College Template
Millie Crawford is a high school music teacher. Below is a recommendation letter for college she has written for a student, David Steele. Although he is a bright, talented student, his grades have not always been good. Millie is aware of extenuating circumstances that mitigate this.
It is my privilege to recommend David Steele for your undergraduate program. He is an inquisitive, intuitively talented student who has worked diligently to overcome difficult obstacles. He has shown amazing perseverance, tenacity, and a genuine love for learning in the years I have known him.
David was my student in 10th grade music theory and 11th grade AP music theory. He was at the top of his class. Both years he won the school district “Iron Composer” competition, which is a day-long, intensive examination of theory skills. Always eager to learn more, David took on extra assignments and sought out opportunities to apply what he learned. With three other students, he began an after-school club, named for a medieval music theorist, called “The Guidonian Hand.” The purpose of this club is to mentor, through music instruction and performance, children in the inner-city schools. David’s exuberant enthusiasm and talent have made the club a success. Forty-five children now participate.
David has had a difficult home life, and his grades reflect that to a certain extent. However, he has repeatedly displayed great integrity of character and determination to succeed that inspired all who taught him. It is my firm conviction that David Steele would be an asset to your school and would be successful there. His vitality and ebullience would contribute to your fine institution. Please contact me if you would like any further information.
How To Write a Recommendation Letter for College
The purpose of a recommendation letter for college is to support a student’s application to a college or a university. Therefore, it is imperative that you have good things to say about that student. If you know you will struggle to write a positive letter, it is wise to turn down the request. You can do so gently by simply saying, “I don’t think I’m the best person for that.” You can also suggest another person, if you know someone in a better position to write this letter.
Begin the letter by introducing the student, using their full name, and mention briefly why you recommend them. Think of two or three strong adjectives that describe the student well. Don’t hesitate to grab a thesaurus if you need to. Overusing words like “smart” and “academically inclined” is not particularly inspiring. There’s no need to be long-winded here. Two or three sentences is enough.
In the next section explain your relationship to the student and in what ways he or she excelled. If you have examples or anecdotes you can share, now is the time. Stories that show the student in a good light, such as performing well or achieving a goal, are always powerful. If you know that the student is applying to a particular program, such as music or engineering, be sure to emphasize talents and attributes that will be a good fit for that program.
Close by endorsing the student and assuring the college that this student would do well there. Be sure to add that they may contact you if they desire further information. Study the recommendation letter for college template for a good example of a closing endorsement.
What To Avoid in Your Recommendation Letter for College
This letter must convey sincerity. To do this, avoid meaningless clichés and don’t overexaggerate. Every student can’t be “the next Steve Jobs.”
Make sure the letter is about the student and not about you. It’s easy to fall into the trap of showing what a great teacher you were rather than what a great student he or she was. Every student has good and bad attributes. If you can’t discuss the less-desirable qualities in a positive light, don’t bring them up at all.
Offer genuine praise. Be authentic in your compliments. If you can honestly say, “In my 25 years of teaching, this is the brightest student I’ve had,” then put it in the letter, and add a short anecdote that illustrates it. Figure out what makes this student unique. Convey that uniqueness through strong adjectives and personal insights. These steps will paint a compelling, genuine portrait of the student.
How To Follow Up After Sending Your Recommendation Letter for College
Most of the follow up for a recommendation letter for college lies in the lap of the student. Usually once you’ve written the letter and sent it off, either by email or traditional mail, you have finished your job. However, the college or university may contact you for further information. Be sure to keep a copy of the letter for yourself for reference in case this happens. Also, if you are close to this student, it would be a kindness to check in with him or her to make sure that the institution received your letter. Computers lose letters in the ether on occasion.
Top 5 Recommendation Letter for College Writing Takeaways
1. If you can’t say anything nice (you know the rest)
Recommendation letters for college are a crucial part of the application. If you don’t have a good relationship with the student, or if you don’t think you can write a positive letter, don’t accept the request. Politely suggest someone else.
2. Show, don’t tell, with good anecdotes
Don’t write, “He’s a natural leader,” if there’s a story that shows he’s a natural leader. Your compliments and assertions carry more weight if you illustrate them with an example.
3. Use strong language
Toss out “very, really, nice” and all their ilk. Think about how this student is special, what makes him or her stand out, and apply those words. Be as precise as possible to give the admissions committee a better idea of just who this student is and what they can bring to their school.
4. Don’t exaggerate
There’s no need for hyperbole. Don’t make a student with average grades and intellect into the next Einstein. The world doesn’t need another Einstein anyway. Bloated compliments are easily spotted. Be sincere and realistic, and focus on the student’s strengths.
5. Treat special circumstances with caution
Some students have challenging lives. Discussing this in a recommendation letter for college may be appropriate. However, be careful about sharing anything too personal or intimate. If you have any doubts, get permission from the student before you write it.