It's important to review college recommendation letter samples if you are applying to college soon or if you have been asked to write a letter for a prospective student. In this increasingly competitive admissions climate, college letters of recommendation as just as important as college essays and GPA. Keep reading to learn more about college recommendation letters, how to make sure you secure and write a compelling one, as well as examples of great letters of recommendation that will definitely inspire your own.


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What are college recommendation letters and why do they matter?

As the name suggests, college recommendation letters are essentially positive endorsements of an applicant's skills and qualities. Their aim is to recommend the applicant in question for a particular college or university. Most four-year colleges, like the easiest ivy schools to get into, or the best undergraduate business schools, for example, have a holistic admissions process. This means that they want to know the "whole person" behind the IB or AP courses, grades, and test scores. Recommendation letters and personal essays play a significant role in making that happen. They give the admissions board more information about how students view themselves and how others see them.

A strong letter of recommendation holds substantial weight in admissions decisions. It allows the admissions committee to get a better idea of who you are as a person and what you would be like as a student. A strong letter can be the deciding factor between receiving an acceptance letter, an interview invitation, or a rejection letter when the school is faced with two equally qualified applicants. 

Want to know more about the college application process? This video will walk you through it:

Who should write college recommendation letters?

College recommendation letters should be written by someone familiar with your work, character, and accomplishments. Someone who knows you well enough to illuminate your intellectual and personal qualities will write a better letter than someone who has little knowledge of who you are.  Depending on your academic and professional background, there are three main types of letters that you can request from various referees.  

Regardless of the type of letter you are requesting, one important thing keeps coming up: the referee should know you well! You do not want writers with whom you have not worked personally or with whom you’ve only had brief interactions. These have not had time to evaluate you and your skills, so they will most likely end up writing a very generic sounding letter. Remember that the recommendation letter is supposed to give the admissions team information about you that can't be found anywhere else in your application. 

If you can get an academic reference, a professional reference, and a personal one as well, we highly recommend that you do so. All of your letters combined should complement each other and give the admissions board a holistic view of who you are as a candidate, and what you can bring to their school. Additionally, you should also try to find out what would appeal the most to the school you are applying to. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has stated that they find recommendation letters from school counselors and high school teachers to be most helpful because they can provide a more complete sketch of the student and their accomplishments. So, if you’re considering applying to MIT, then you might want to get a recommendation from your high school teacher.  

If you are ever in doubt about whom you should ask for a recommendation, try reaching out to college admissions consulting services. These professionals can help you find the perfect referees based on your program, school, and circumstances.

Also working on your college essays? This infographic is for you

3 tips for securing a strong college recommendation letter 

Before we get into the structure of a recommendation letter, what it needs to include, and those examples that we promised, we want to go over a few things that you need to keep in mind if you want to have recommendation letters that stand out. 

  1. The earlier, the better:  Any good college advisor will tell you that you need to start planning and working on your college applications early. College applications have a lot of components that require time and focus to get right. That's why it is ideal for you to request your recommendation letters early, as it gives you more time to focus on other aspects of your college application, like writing your common app essay or reviewing common college interview questions. Furthermore, the earlier you speak with your chosen writers about your reference letter, the sooner they can start working on it. Therefore, the higher your chances of getting a strong letter of recommendation.
  2.  Ask tactfully:  It's important to remember that when you're asking for a letter of recommendation, you are essentially asking for a professional favor. It's therefore important to be courteous and professional when asking your chosen writers for one. We recommend doing it face to face whenever possible, but if that's not an option for you, then you may send the request by email. In both cases, you should explicitly ask for a letter of recommendation and provide them with all the information they may need. This brings us to our last point...  
  3.  It's your responsibility:  As the applicant, it is your responsibility to provide your chosen writers with everything they need to write the strongest letter they can. You should provide them with supporting documents like your supplemental essay, high school resume if you have one, and a short biography to fill in any gaps. They also need to know what format the letter should be in, if anything specific is required by the school, whom they should send the letter to, and when. You should also make sure they have your contact information to get in touch with you if they need additional information. At the end of the day, this is your college application, so you need to follow up with every single component, even if you are not writing your own letter of recommendation.    

The format and content of a college recommendation letter

There is no golden template for college recommendation letters. You just need to make sure that the letter is grammatically correct, easy to read and follow, and communicates the right information. It is important to check the guidelines and instructions given by the school you are applying to. Some colleges can request that references be submitted in a specific format, and it is your responsibility to inform your chosen writers of this. You may have a form that your selected referee will need to fill out or specific questions that the school requires them to answer in their letter.  

Unless otherwise stated, we recommend using the following format: 

Conclusion and college recommendation letter examples

College letters of recommendation are challenging. Whether you're requesting a letter of recommendation or have been asked to write one for a prospective college student, there are a lot of things that you need to keep in mind. It's important to use a format that is easy to read, a structure that is easy to follow, and to have specific examples that will show the admissions board why a candidate belongs in their school or university. Following the tips outlined above will definitely help you come up with a recommendation letter that is as compelling or maybe even better than the outstanding examples that we'll share with you below.

Have you started working on your college admissions essay? This video has some great tips you can use:

College recommendation letter sample # 1 

To whom it may concern, 

It is with great pleasure that I write this letter of recommendation on behalf of Jane Doe. I have known her for three years, having served as both her English teacher and her supervisor on the XYZ High School newspaper. I firmly believe that Jane would be an excellent addition to the XX College English program. 

 I have watched Jane grow into a capable and confident leader. She started as one of the junior writers of our high school paper, and from the very beginning, Jane was always early to newspaper meetings, and she always came prepared. Whether it was with research for the stories she wanted to pitch or a pen and paper to take notes on whatever assignment she would get. She worked her way up to features editor and she has been occupying this role for one year.  

 Her leadership skills are reflected every day in how she delegates work to her assistant staff and motivates the other writers on her team with words and creative contests that appeal to their competitive side. For example, she recently bought two tickets to a concert and offered them as a prize for the junior writer who came up with the most interesting angle for a story about renovating the school cafeteria. All of the writers had been staying away from it because it seemed like a pretty boring subject but now, they are all looking for ways to make it interesting.  

 She has also been able to manage her commitments to the school paper and the cheerleading team without compromising her grades, which is a testament to her organizational skills. She has consistently been an active participant in class discussions and has demonstrated her impressive written and verbal communication skills through numerous research papers, newspaper articles, and class presentations. Jane intends to spend her years in university honing those communication skills and learning how to be a better journalist, something that I know she is very passionate about and will excel at. 

 I am confident that Jane would be a great addition to your school, as she has so much to offer, both inside and outside the classroom.  If you have any questions regarding Jane's qualifications, please feel free to contact me at (514) 123-4567 or [email protected] 

Regards,  

Izzie Stevens,  

English teacher, XYZ high school  

College recommendation letter sample # 2 

 To Whom It May Concern, 

I have had the pleasure of supervising George Yang at BBG Auto dealership for a little over two years now, and I can say without a doubt that he would make a great addition to the student body of ABC program.  

I have been impressed with how reliable and responsible George is. Many part-timers in the car dealership business are high school or college students, and often, they require a certain amount of handholding, but this has never been the case with George. From the very beginning, he was always punctual and respectful with customers. One gentleman in particular was so impressed with the service that he received that he booked a separate appointment with me, just to tell me how friendly and helpful George was as he went through the process of buying his daughter’s first car. The customer insisted that George deserved a raise.  

 Moreover, when he is not using his downtime to catch up on schoolwork, he is either taking initiative and cold calling potential customers to tell them about upcoming promotions that might interest them or helping his coworkers complete additional tasks, like cleaning up the cars in the showroom, updating the price tags on the cars and sometimes even helping the other salespeople close on a deal.  

 In addition to being a team player, he also shows great leadership potential. At his request, I gave him the opportunity to run one of our promotional campaigns, and he did a fantastic job. He came up with a marketing plan that attracted over 60 customers to the dealership in one day, and he delegated tasks when he had to make sure things ran smoothly. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, in my opinion, he sought help from myself and other members of management whenever he needed it.  

 George has mentioned that he is interested in pursuing a degree in business, a niche in which I am positive he will excel. His dedication to learning makes him a focused student, and I am optimistic that he will graduate with flying colors.  

 I give George my highest recommendation for enrollment in the business program in your college, without reservation. Please feel free to contact me at (819) 123-5678 or [email protected] for any further information. 

Sincerely, 

Jacob Blake 

Sales Manager, BBG Auto Dealership 

College recommendation letter sample # 3 

To Whom It May Concern 

I am writing this recommendation letter at the request of Jonathan Smith, who is applying for admission to X university. Jonathan has been a student at JKL High School for three years and the captain of our football team for a year now. As the team's coach, I have had the pleasure of getting to know him as an athlete but also as a person and a student. 

 As an athlete, it is evident that Jonathan strives to win and enjoys the sport in its pure form. As a person, I have watched him learn to be a better leader by listening to his teammates and often asking questions that gave me a pause. I remember a particular instance where he sat next to me on the bus as we were coming back from a game and asked if it was his role to intervene when two team members were having a personal dispute that could potentially affect the game but had not gotten to that point yet. It was one of those moments that showed me that he takes his role as a captain seriously. 

As a student, Jonathan is always eager to learn. I have noticed it when we study plays, and he takes careful notes and asks follow-up questions. Many of my colleagues at JKL high school have also commented on his ability to quickly grasp concepts and follow up on the rare occasions where he is not able to do so on the first try. It is one of the main reasons why he was able to secure an ‘A’ in his AP Biology class even though he joined the class later than the other students.  

As you can probably tell from the few stories that I have shared with you, Jonathan is a focused young man who takes his responsibilities and commitments very seriously. He has assured me that he is committed to becoming one of the best physical therapists in the country and that X university gives him the best chance of achieving this goal.  

I recommend Jonathan for your program without any reservations, as I am confident that he will contribute to your alma matter in great ways, both in and out of the classroom and on the football field. I can be reached by phone at (800) 123-8888 or email at [email protected] if you require any further information. 

Sincerely, 

Tucker O'Malley,  

JKL High School  

College recommendation letter sample # 4 

 To Whom It May Concern, 

It is without hesitation and with great pleasure that I write to you today regarding Aisha Bellgam's application to your prestigious institution. I have been a counselor at XYZ high school for over ten years, and Aisha is one of the most promising students that I have had the pleasure of working with.  

 Aisha first came to me for guidance during her first year of high school. She was new to the country, unfamiliar with our educational system, and dealing with some pretty heavy family problems that made it difficult for her to focus in school. The reality of my job is that I often have to offer my help to students who need it, or other teachers have to send them to my office. So, as you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised that Aisha had decided to take this step by herself.  

 Over the years, I have noticed that taking this kind of initiative comes naturally to her. For example, once we had worked through her issues and she was more comfortable in school, she decided to help other students like her. Our school is located in an urban community with many children from immigrant families. Being one herself, Aisha is uniquely qualified to identify some of the things that make it difficult for these children to adapt to their new environment, and she recognized that. In her sophomore year, she came to me and asked if she could volunteer in my office and provide resources to help students new to the country integrate faster.  

 Furthermore, many of her teachers have commended her for often taking the time to tutor other students after school. Her compassion, willingness to help, and amicable nature are why she was elected president of the student council. They are also the reason I believe that she will excel in college and go on to change many lives for the better after graduation if she is admitted into your social work program.  

 I am writing this letter today because I wholeheartedly believe that Aisha will be a fantastic addition to your social work program. I have watched her grow into a confident, compassionate young woman who is continually working to better herself and those around her. I look forward to seeing her continue to do so in college and beyond.  

 Please do not hesitate to contact me by phone at (204) 123-4567 or email at [email protected] for any additional information regarding this application.  

 Sincerely, 

Iris Doe 

XYZ High School counselor 

College recommendation letter sample # 5 

 To Whom It May Concern, 

My name is Jonathan Sheperd, and I am writing to you today in support of Mr. James Doe's application to the pre-med program at X university.  

 I have been a family physician for over twenty-five years. I currently own and operate a small walk-in clinic in downtown Toronto, and James has been volunteering with us since January 20xx. I have had the pleasure of supervising him and observing him work for over a year now, and I can confidently say that he will make an excellent doctor in the future.  

 I personally believe that bedside manner is one of the hardest things to teach future doctors, but I do not think that will be the case with James. He is always patient, friendly, and courteous with the incoming patients. I realized this during one of his first full shifts at the clinic when a patient who was having a problem controlling their bowel movements came into the clinic and was looking for assistance. Even some of the most experienced members of my staff were having a hard time staying professional, but James volunteered to help this young man with no complaints, and he did so with a smile. In the end, I heard the patient thank him for helping him through one of the most embarrassing days of his life.  

 This is the type of great impression that James leaves with patients and colleagues as well. Even though he only works the front desk at the clinic for 20 hours every other week, the entirety of my staff has acknowledged that his willingness to help and work ethic are things we can always rely on. He has often volunteered to work longer hours when we need extra help, and he always accepts new assignments with enthusiasm. 

 He recently informed me that he made the dean's list again this spring. It did not surprise me because I know that he brings the same level of dedication and work ethic to his studies. He has a very curious mind that is always at work. We actually have a running joke in the office about the little notebook that he carries around and writes in constantly. When I finally asked him about it, he told me that he likes to write down some of the terms that he repeatedly hears in the office so that he can research them or ask his biology teacher about them.  

 His work ethic and eagerness to learn are undeniable, and I am convinced that they will help him succeed as a student and, later on, as a physician. I strongly recommend this applicant for your pre-medicine program as I believe that his professionalism, positive learning attitude, and thirst for knowledge will make him a great addition to your student body.  

 Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions. You can reach me by phone at (618) 123-3698 or email at [email protected] 

Sincerely, 

Dr. Jonathan Sheperd 

  FAQs

1. What is a college letter of recommendation?

It's a document that highlights a candidate's skills and qualifications and recommends that they be admitted to a particular college or university. 


2. How important are college letters of recommendation?

Very important! College admission boards like to get a sense of who is the applicant is beyond their academic background, and college essays and letters of recommendation allow them to do just that. In other words, a strong letter of recommendation can mean the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection one.

3. Who should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

You can ask your high school teachers, school counselors, mentors, supervisors, etc. Just make sure that it is someone who knows you well enough to talk about your skills and other positive attributes.

4. When should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

The earlier, the better. You should ask for your recommendation letters at the very beginning of your college application process. You can even mention it to your chosen writers before then and simply remind them when it comes time to apply to colleges.

5. How should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

We recommend that you ask for a letter of recommendation face to face. Remember to be polite and professional, be specific in your ask, and provide all the information your referee will need to write a strong letter.

6. What information should I give the person writing my letter of recommendation?

You should provide your chosen writer with supporting documents about your background, like your personal essay or high school resume, and information about the letter format, content, and submission deadline.

7. How long should a college letter of recommendation be?

Ideally, college recommendation letters shouldn't be longer than one page.

8. What makes a strong college letter of recommendation?

In short, a narrative and specific example. Instead of just telling the admissions board that the applicant is a capable student with leadership skills, it would be best to share an example or a brief anecdote that shows that they are.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 


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1 Comments

Valentine

Please can the recommender's email be personal?.

Reply

BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Valetine! Thanks for your comment. It is always best to put down the professional email of your referees, so do your best to include them instead of personal email. However, if your referee is no longer working in an official capacity (retired, for example), you can use their personal email. Though we always recommend using a professional address. 

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