How do you write a letter of recommendation for a student? What are the does and don’ts; what shape should the letter take and what should be the contents. If you’re like most students, then you’ve probably had to ask your teachers for letter of recommendations at one point or another in your academic career.
However, what if you want your letter of recommendation to be better than the rest? Then you’ll need to follow these simple steps to make sure that happens.
How to Write a Letter of Recommendation for a Student
1. The best letters are detailed
A good letter of recommendation is one that gives the admissions committee an idea about what kind of person you are and how you might fit in with the other students.
Make sure your letter is specific and personal. The best letters mention achievements, not just abilities or traits. They show genuine concern for the applicant and enthusiasm for their potential contributions to campus life as well as their academic pursuits.
They also discuss how they know the applicant, how long they have known them, and why they think highly of them. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! Remember, this is someone’s future we’re talking about.
Make sure that if you need to offer criticism, do so diplomatically and be careful not to use any language that could be construed as discriminatory or offensive.
2. The best letters focus on positive personality traits
The best letters focus on the positive personality traits of the person being recommended. Showing off these traits can help set your applicant apart from other candidates who are less knowledgeable and less qualified.
Their education, experience, and abilities should be secondary in the letter’s discussion; instead, you should focus on how their skills make them an excellent candidate for the job opening.
It is always important to keep the letter concise and clear so that it does not seem too long or over-complicated. Include any specific details about why this individual is a good fit for the position so that it becomes evident to those reading your letter why this person is more than worth consideration .
These details will also help put the applicant at ease because they will know what they need to do in order to get hired. Be sure to let them know whether or not you recommend them for the position as well as when and where they can contact you if they have questions after reading your letter.
3. The best letters stick to facts
The best letters stick to the facts, not trying to be too personal or emotional. They are short and concise, hitting on the most important qualities about the person being recommended.
The tone should be professional and polite, not overly flowery or effusive. Be as specific as possible about what you see in this person that makes them worthy of your endorsement.
Be honest and straightforward with any weaknesses or shortcomings that may come up during an interview. It’s better to address these head-on than have the interviewer notice and bring it up themselves.
Ask if there is anything else you should include that might be helpful – like test scores, course grades, previous work experience, etc. Make sure to proofread your letter before sending it off!
4. The best letters stay away from flowery language
- Don’t be biased. Keep your personal feelings aside and focus on facts.
- Do explain why the applicant is qualified for the position.
- Do provide specific examples of how they’ve shown these qualities in their actions.
- Don’t use vague words like great or good. What makes them good? What makes them great?
Avoid long sentences that don’t make sense. Use short, declarative sentences instead.
Explain what it was about this person’s performance that made you believe they would excel in the job.
Make sure to have them sign off on the letter before sending it out! Use an email so they can review it quickly and give you feedback as soon as possible.
After all letters are submitted, keep copies for yourself. You never know when an employer may ask for one!
Lastly, remember to always look back over the whole letter at least once more before hitting send!
5. The best letters are honest
A good letter of recommendation should be well-written, honest and accurate. If you don’t know the person very well, it’s best to say so instead of making up information.
It’s also important to list any strengths and weaknesses that you might have observed in the applicant. Finally, choose words that are polite but truthful about the applicant’s abilities.
Keep in mind that students will see these letters later when they apply to jobs or graduate school, so it’s best not to exaggerate their qualities too much. The letter should be personal, positive and specific enough to stand on its own without other supporting materials like transcripts or test scores.
Most schools ask for two or three different people to write letters. That way, if one professor doesn’t feel qualified to comment on a certain area (say teaching), someone else can come in with more experience and say something useful.
Letters from parents usually carry less weight than those from professors, although there are exceptions depending on how close the parents were to the applicant while they were growing up.
The best letters avoid comparisons between candidates
There are two types of letters that are important when applying to colleges.
- The first is the letter from the school, which tells the reader about the strengths and weaknesses of the applicant, their academic performance, and how they compare to other students at that school.
- The second is called a rec letter, and this is where you ask an individual who knows you well—a teacher, coach, or employer—to describe your skills in more detail than would be possible on paper.
In this case, it’s best to ask them about things like what you’re good at doing, what makes you happy and productive, what gets in the way of that happening for you sometimes, and how those things might change if there were different opportunities available.
They’ll also need to know whether your grades have been up or down recently because if so, it will affect how likely it is that you’ll be accepted into the college they’re writing a letter for.
Check Out some of our important tips for you.
It’s not too difficult to write a good letter of recommendation, but there are some steps you can take to make the process easier.
- First, make sure that your tone is professional and courteous.
- Second, use formal language and avoid slang.
- Third, it’s helpful to start with an introduction that tells the reader who you are and how you know the student.
- Fourth, mention specific accomplishments and skillsets that would be relevant in future employment contexts.
- Fifth, include any other information that will help the reader better understand why they should consider this applicant as a potential hire.