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A college recommendation letter is a letter written by a school teacher, headmaster or private tutor to support their student's application to join a specific college course.

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Sample College Letter of Recommendation

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Sample College Letter of Recommendation

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What is a letter of recommendation for college?

A College Recommendation Letter is a letter written by a school teacher, headmaster or private tutor to support their student's college application or application to grad school. The letter includes details about the person writing the letter and the student being written about.  This letter is an important part of the college admissions process.

The Letter also covers:

  • Specific references to the student's proven intellectual abilities, including exam success
  • A student's potential for academic success based on experience of the student
  • Descriptions of academic strengths, or practical aptitudes and skills demonstrated in class
  • References to relevant personal qualities and skills e.g. in after school club activities
  • Detail of specific examples of work undertaken that pertain to their desired course of study
  • Use descriptive terms and powerful terms to bolster your case
  • References to your student's academics and professional endeavors
  • References to life goals of the student where appropriate and relevant
  • Summary of the student overall

Both the writer and the college should keep a copy of the signed letter for their records.

Other names

  • Recommendation Letter For College Applicants
  • Recommendation Letter For Students Applying To Further Education College
  • Reference Letter

What can a college letter of recommendation be used for?

You can adapt this letter for any application to a higher education institution or place of academic learning including:

  • Schools or Colleges
  • University
  • Graduate school
  • Professional courses of learning

Who needs one?

A letter of recommendation will strengthen any student's application to apply for further education at any college or educational institution.  It offers an independent and professional opinion about your skills, knowledge and potential.

Professionals at a higher education institution, HR professionals, or employers who are responsible for intake will be able to use letters of recommendation as an independent assessment of a potential student's capabilities and capacity for success in studying and / or learning with your organization.

People who may find this letter useful are:

  • College admissions administration staff/Admissions Committees
  • College lecturers
  • Higher education institution professionals
  • School pupils
  • Students

A common form of a college letter of recommendation details the specific qualifications of the letter writer to write on behalf of the applicant, with details of:

  • The supporting professional's role
  • How long the professional has known and taught the applicant for
  • At which school or where they taught them
  • The name of the student applicant
  • Which course of study or training the letter pertains to
  • Details of the student's academic and personal aptitudes, strengths and potential as above

Who should be selected to write a college letter of recommendation?

Teachers, coaches, tutors, and counselors are ideal choices to write a college letter of recommendation.  These professionals are able to describe a student’s qualifications, skills, work habits, and personality traits.

It is helpful for a student to choose a letter writer who that have a relationship with outside of school hours.  Good candidates include those who they have worked with in an academic club, on a sports team, or volunteering. Recommenders who know a candidate outside of the school environment are able to provide a fuller picture of the student.

The best teachers to ask for recommendation are your most recent teachers.  This is because students grow and change a lot during their high school years and admission officers would like the most current insights that are available.  Accordingly, it is best to ask teachers who have worked with your in you junior and senior years.

If a school asks you to provide multiple letters of recommendation, it is best to look from people who know you in different capacities.  For example, do not ask for 3 recommendations from 3 different English teachers. A better idea would be to ask 1 English teacher who also supervises your work on the school newspaper, 1 physics teacher, and 1 math teacher who knows about your volunteer work.

Also consider which teacher with give you the highest recommendation.  In which classes do you have the highest academic performance? Which teachers would be able to write about your personal character?  Is there a teacher who can honestly say that you have the highest test scores in their class or that you are a hard worker?

Best Practices

The best college recommendation letters are enthusiastic and positive about a student.  The most effective letters focus on a student’s key personal and academic qualities and provide specific examples that highlight those qualities.

Before you begin writing your letter, brainstorm the qualities of the student that you wish to highlight and the specific examples that you will give.  Are you able to honestly recommend that student as an excellent addition to that school? If you cannot think of anything to highlight, consider whether you are the best person to write the recommendation letter.

If you have trouble writing your letter, you may want to look at sample letters online.

Legal Considerations

Am I allowed to check my recommender’s letter?

As a rule, no. A recommendation should be a true reflection of their view of you. Students may be obliged to sign a waiver to this effect. If a referee feels they cannot write a supportive letter on a student's behalf, they will not do so. To give student's the best chance of getting a good reference, they should approach two teachers well in advance of applications. Talking to them early on and offering them a resume to give the teacher more background on your professional and life goals, personal interests, activities, academic focus and college plans helps to bolster what is written about you with relevant examples of your skills, knowledge, capabilities and ambitions.

Submitting Letters of Recommendation

The writer of the letter is typically responsible for submitting their own letter for recommendation.  The recommenders will usually send them in electronically through whatever application platform a student is using.

If the recommendation letter deadline is approaching and your recommender has not submitted a letter yet, a student should ask if the person needs anything else to complete the letter.  This is a polite way to remind the recommender without being demanding.

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