How to Write Recommendation Letters for Your Students

Learn how to get all of the information you need to write a great letter of recommendation for your student. Prepare your students for college and set them up for a bright future with a great college recommendation letter.

When a student asks you to write a letter of recommendation for their college application, it’s a big deal. It means they feel a connection with you. It means your words matter to them. So while there may be a bit of pressure on your end, try not to sweat it too much. Below is everything you need to know to do the job, and do it well. 

How to Write Recommendation Letters for Your Students  

Applying to college can be incredibly stressful for students. With so many requirements and deadlines to meet, it can be nerve-racking for them to choose the person who writes their recommendation letter. 

Even more nerve-racking could be the process of writing a recommendation letter for your student. As an educator, mentor, or coach, you have already worked hard to gain this student’s trust and respect. Naviance is here to help break down how to write a recommendation letter that will complement your student’s college applications.

Why are College Recommendation Letters Important?

A good letter of recommendation is key to a college application. It can — and should — complement the student’s college essay by speaking to the skills and experience that are evident in the essay. Letters of recommendation provide admissions counselors with deeper insight into a student’s character, academic performance, and life. Think about it this way: A well-written college essay offers first-person perspective, and a well-written letter of recommendation offers crucial support and endorsement of that perspective.

How to Write a Good Recommendation Letter
College admissions counselors read thousands of recommendations, essays, and transcripts. In order to write a good college recommendation letter, personalization and professionalism are imperative because your goal is to help the student stand out in the college application process.

Tell your student’s story.
Focus on notable moments the student has had in your classroom or in the school system. Make your letter unique and personal by writing about experiences you have shared with your student. A good way to do this is to ask the student why they chose you to write their letter. This will help you better understand the relationship and if they have the same connection to you as you have to them. First and foremost, your letter is about telling your student’s story. An easy way to frame it is by using the first few lines to establish your delight in recommending this student. Then continue by stating how you know this student — i.e. which of your class(es) they attended — and your positive impressions of them. Use the rest of the letter to share what you know to be true about your student’s skills and abilities and personality, and why they would make an excellent addition to the university. Offer your phone number and email address as a way to connect for any follow up questions. To further understand your student’s story, ask if you can take a look at their resume and college essay — both of these will provide wonderful, added insight into both your student’s academic as well as personal life.

Offer genuine praise.
Do not offer up anything negative about the student, but do not lie or exaggerate. Do not write falsely about accomplishments and do not misrepresent skills. Focus on acknowledging and recognizing the student’s strengths — both within and outside the classroom.

Use proper grammar.
This likely goes without saying, but proper grammar is paramount. If your letter of recommendation is not well-written or it contains typos or other errors, you will be doing a disservice to your student. A letter that is not well-written will not be taken seriously by admissions staff, and they will not view you as a reputable source. 

At Naviance, we know that getting students college and career ready and helping them achieve their best-fit outcomes is a big job and requires support. Our college readiness programs offer a range of options for how you can integrate college readiness programs into your school or district. And of course, we are always here to answer your questions. 

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