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With college admissions fast approaching and the competition hotter than ever, recommendation letters have never been more critical.

These short pieces of text can be the one thing that sets your students apart from their peers – especially when it comes to the most prestigious of schools. Sound like a lot of pressure? Unfortunately, you’re not the only high school teacher that feels that way.

That’s why we’ve put together three awesome recommendation letter samples for students to get you started.

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What makes recommendation letters so vital?

Recommendation letters are a vital part of the application process for many colleges across the US. This is partly because admissions officers want to see the whole person, rather than just the grades, of the individuals they accept for their specific school. As, in many cases, face-to-face meets aren’t suitable, your letter of recommendation paints the picture of the kind of person your student is. From personal strengths to academic interests, personality to independent skills, a recommendation letter should give an overview of who that person is.

As such, the more robust and more effective the recommendation, the better the chance it gives that student of getting into their dream school. The words you choose, the information you include, and the accomplishments you list can make a massive difference in your students’ lives in various ways. Recommendation letters are part of the holistic application process, according to the experts at PrepScholar, which means they’re a formal part of the modern application process. No recommendation letter or a poorly written or generic contribution can damage many students, especially those attempting to attend prestigious or private schools for their future college plans.

In short, recommendation letters are incredibly vital to the modern application process. So when students you know well and appreciate ask for your recommendation, creating one that’s awesome, informative, and all-around glowing should be your goal.

Tips to make your recommendation letters great

Now you’ve got a good idea of what makes recommendation letters so important, how can you make them awesome? We’ve included several examples below to help you get started, but we’ve also covered more general tips and tricks. So here are a few things to consider when drafting your first version of that all-important recommendation letter:

  • Make sure you know enough about the student for a strong recommendation: If you don’t have a clear idea of who a student is and their strengths, you might not be the best choice to create a recommendation letter that genuinely represents them as a prospect.
  • Start formally: While formal letter writing is going out of fashion with the rise of email, recommendation letters should still follow the traditional format. Start with ‘to whom it may concern or ‘dear admissions representative’ to establish the appropriate level of formality.
  • Begin with an introduction: Before getting down into the little details, start with an introduction to the student – whether it’s a story, strengths, or simply your anecdote that makes you think about him or her.
  • Focus on character and less tangible achievements: Your student will have submitted their grades, qualifications, and formal accomplishments alongside your recommendation for admissions. So don’t be afraid to move away from more quantifiable measures in exchange for more exceptional character and personality.
  • Be straight about your recommendation: Don’t be vague about whether or not you’d recommend your student. In your conclusion, make it clear that they would be a great asset and that you’d highly recommend them for that particular college.
  • Check, check, check: Before sending off your final letter of recommendation, make sure you proofread it. A good letter should be shorter than one page (around 300-500 words) and engaging without repeating itself. Make sure you check for grammar and spelling mistakes thoroughly before submission too.

Got a stronger idea about how to create the perfect recommendation letter? For deeper insight into writing a college application letter that’s effective, WeAreTeachers has all the in-depth knowledge you need. If you’re feeling inspired but still not quite sure how to translate those positive characteristics to paper, these recommendation letter templates are a fantastic place to start:

Recommendation letter: hard-working students

Dear Admissions Officer,

I greatly recommend [STUDENT NAME], who I taught 11th-grade biology and physics. [STUDENT NAME] has shown incredible resilience, growth, and effort throughout the year, bringing energy and hard work to every class. With a positive attitude, focus on improvement, and confidence in meeting their goals, I can be assured that he will continue to display these exceptional qualities in all he goes on to do. As such, I highly recommend [STUDENT NAME] for a place at [SCHOOL NAME].

While [STUDENT NAME] would not describe themselves as a ‘Science person and is someone for whom specific experiments and subjects don’t come naturally, their hard work and dedication to learning have allowed them to overcome any challenges they faced in understanding and working with the unfamiliar subject matter. Where others might have fallen behind, [STUDENT NAME] instead took this subject as a welcome challenge, seeking additional tutoring and supporting other classmates in furthering their learning. As a hard worker dedicated to helping others succeed, I’ve seen fantastic growth in their abilities over the past year.

[STUDENT NAME]’s commitment to improving and acquiring new skills through practice, effort, and persistence has also helped shape their achievements as a volunteer for the local community. Since signing up for [CHARITY] at the start of high school, they have made leaps and bounds to improve their math, Science, and English skills to help more unfortunate students. Thanks to their incredible effort and dedication, I’ve witnessed other students blossom due to [STUDENT NAME]’s enthusiasm and hard work.

[STUDENT NAME] is a friendly, trustworthy, and dedicated student and friend to those in their class, working to support others. They were a pleasure as a student, and their positive demeanor and attitude to learning in difficult circumstances are fantastic assets for any place of higher education. I am confident that [STUDENT NAME] will continue to be the same highly motivated, generous, and optimistic individual, whatever they achieve next. I highly recommend [STUDENT NAME] for admission to the undergraduate program as [COLLEGE NAME]. For any further questions, please feel free to contact me at [PHONE NUMBER].

Sincerely,

Mrs. Teacher

Biology & Physics Science Teacher

Generic High School

What makes this letter awesome

Not every student will be a star in their achievements and grades. This letter is designed to display the positive qualities of a hard-working, generous, and self-motivated student over-focusing on academic achievement. Plenty of positive personal strengths are included in the letter, alongside several examples where these have been applied. As a letter that supports the student’s personal growth and ongoing development, there’s plenty here that admissions officers will like. While having amazing talents in particular areas is highly beneficial, the ability to work hard consistently and to improve continually is also highly valued.

If you have students that support their community, work hard to raise their grades, and overcome difficulties in their lessons, this letter is an excellent place to start. It covers many positive points outside a specific academic success. It still promotes a positive, impressive, and enthusiastic view of a student that could do well in the right college setting.

Recommendation letter: artistic students

Dear Admissions Committee,

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching [STUDENT NAME] throughout the 11th grade in Fine Arts at [HIGH SCHOOL NAME]. From day one of class, [STUDENT NAME] has been an enthusiastic and articulate contributor, both in creating nuanced and elegant artwork – inside and outside the classroom – and in their passion for art history and learning about famous artists. [STUDENT NAME] is an exceptionally talented artist, and they have my highest possible recommendation as both a fellow artist and educator.

[STUDENT NAME] is talented at unwinding the subtle imagery and messages found in countless artworks, from renaissance paintings to ancient sculpture and imagery. They developed an exceptional year-long thesis on feminist artists throughout history. They compared and provided a detailed analysis of several key artists based on personal research and interest. When asked to provide a defense for their thesis subject, [STUDENT NAME] was able to speak succinctly and eloquently about their choice, with a great deal of insight and understanding into the history of the artists as well as their works. Beyond the classroom, [STUDENT NAME] also dedicates themself to producing art in the community, including creating a beautiful mural for a community center featured in several local publications. [STUDENT NAME] is insightful, aware, and innovative in their approach to their artwork, with pieces spanning multiple mediums from canvas and oils to brickwork and spray paint.

Throughout the 11th grade, [STUDENT NAME] has been actively involved in discussions in the class, including supporting and raising peers to a greater understanding of historical artworks. Their personality and enthusiasm for their subject matter inspire their fellow students, making them the ideal individual for collaborative projects. Alongside their wealth of understanding of artistry, [STUDENT NAME] also has excellent mastery and technical skills in multiple forms of execution for their artwork, leading to a series of their paintings being displayed permanently within the school arts area. Combined with their empathy for others, raw talent, and exceptional commitment to the arts, [STUDENT NAME] is an outstanding student of the arts and a talented artist in their own right.

I am confident that [STUDENT NAME] will achieve amazing things in the future as an artist and art historian. As such, I can highly recommend them for admission to the undergraduate program at [COLLEGE NAME]. I can only see them furthering their talent and interest in the arts and blossoming through dedicated training and insights that higher education can provide. If you would like to discuss my recommendation with me, please get in touch with me at [EMAIL].

Sincerely,

Mrs. Teacher

Fine Art Teacher

Generic High School

What makes this letter awesome

A glowing, enthusiastic, and keen recommendation is exactly what this art student needs. Like the hard-working student, the focus here isn’t on grades and academic success. Instead, the teacher focuses on the personal passions, character traits, and talents of the individual they’re discussing. Strong and positive language is used to accurately convey the student’s enthusiasm and motivation for their work; examples are included to back this up. It’s also clear that this student will have a bright future if nurtured correctly – which is precisely what college can provide.

This recommendation letter is an excellent springboard if you have students with talent, enthusiasm, and enjoyment in the arts above other subjects. Focus on the particular skills and behavior that enhance their connection with their work, and you’ll soon have a positive recommendation letter that does all you want it to.

Recommendation letter: skilled STEM students

Dear Admissions Committee,

I am pleased to recommend 11th-grade student [STUDENT NAME] for admission to the engineering program at [COLLEGE NAME]. I would consider them one of the most exceptional students I have taught in my 18 years in education. I taught [STUDENT NAME] both for 11th grade honors Physics and Chemistry and acted as supervisor for the Engineering Club, of which they are a founding member. It’s no surprise that they have achieved the top rank amongst her peers in most of her honors classes, having seen their incredible talent for all things math, physics, and engineering myself. I believe she would be an excellent choice for your engineering program, and I highly recommend her acceptance.

[STUDENT NAME] is a quick, sharp, and shrewdly intelligent individual with a well-rounded knowledge base. They particularly have high aptitude in math and science-related subjects and work with their hands for computing and engineering learning. They are driven to understand and explore how things work, from computer hard drives to the universe. Her work in Engineering Club has been exceptional, supporting the final class project on sound absorption, inspired by reducing the noise level at home when playing drums. As a leader and founder in the club, [STUDENT NAME] has provided support, enthusiasm, and even tutoring to their peers, working collaboratively with others to produce fascinating robotics creations and even theory – including an engaging lecture on exactly how AI works.

[STUDENT NAME]’s abilities and strengths are equally impressive as her academic enthusiasm and curiosity. They are an outgoing, positive, and active individual with a fantastic sense of humor, able to transform even the driest conversation into something enjoyable. They are a natural leader and do fantastically when instigating group projects. This, combined with their commitment to accepting feedback and growing each day, makes her an incredibly strong candidate for further education in the engineering sector. [STUDENT NAME] is engaging, driven, and lively and the perfect asset for any program.

[STUDENT NAME] holds my highest recommendation as an addition to your excellent engineering program. They have consistently demonstrated excellence in all they do, from creating basic robotics to developing a greater understanding of complex scientific subjects. [STUDENT NAME]’s boundless curiosity and willingness to go further leads me to believe they would be the perfect candidate for the engineering program at [COLLEGE NAME]. Please don’t hesitate to ask me more questions should you have any. I can be contacted at [PHONE NUMBER].

Sincerely,

Mrs. Teacher

Physics & Chemistry Teacher

Generic High School

What makes this letter awesome

Starting with the student’s exceptional academic record and following on with some strong personalist traits, this recommendation letter is the ideal fit for students looking to go into STEM further education. There’s less of a focus on generic skills and more of a laser focus on highly relevant experience, traits, and insights – which is exactly what colleges will be looking for when it comes to their more rigorous or challenging programs.

This recommendation is an excellent start for students heavily involved in – and enthusiastic about – STEM. Focus on their relevant abilities, enthusiasm for their subject matter, and specific achievements; that student could go far.

Things to avoid in student recommendation letters

Now we know what a great recommendation letter looks like, what should be avoided? Ideally, these letters should be personal things. Instead of focusing on simple academic grades, they should look deeper into the character and personality of the individual student. Avoid making general statements such as ‘they can collaborate well,’ and instead elaborate with examples or ways in which they have demonstrated that skill. It’s also important to proofread your writing to ensure you’re not making any apparent contradictions in the text – a student can’t be excellent at the finer details but also primarily focus on the bigger picture, for example.

Writing recommendation letters can be an acquired skill – but with a little practice, and enthusiasm about your subject matter, creating those glowing reports can get talented students into the colleges that are best for them. How many recommendation letters do you write for your students each year?