How to Write a College Recommendation Letter
Tips for writing a great college recommendation letter
We all know who needs college recommendation letters (wide-eyed students full of hopes/dreams/optimism). We all know who reads college recommendation letters (bleary-eyed admissions counsellors full of cynicism/regret/doubt). But who writes college recommendation letters? The answer is anyone (managers/employers, business professionals, teachers, guidance counsellors, clergy, community organizers, friends, and family); it’s a tremendous honour to be asked but it’s also very weighty. Along with their college admissions essay, your letter might be the factor that determines whether this individual fulfills their dreams.
Involve the potential student
It’s a safe assumption that you will know the student that you are writing the college recommendation letter for, and you will have a relationship with that student, but there are many people in your life and it might be difficult to remember the specifics about that particular student. Ask that student to provide a list of their extracurricular activities and a copy of their transcript (if applicable). These will help you to reference specifics in your letter of recommendation.
Begin with the standard “To Whom It May Concern.” The first line should provide the name of the person you are recommending. Next, state how long you have known the individual and in what context.
Admission counsellors want to hear two things. They want to hear specific examples of the individual’s personal qualities, leadership abilities, generosity, dedication, drive/ambition, and they want to know why this individual would be a good fit for their school. Bottom line: be specific. Sometimes it is helpful to review a college recommendation letter sample to see exactly how your letter could be formatted.
How do you end a college letter of recommendation? Nothing fancy, no bells, no whistles. The standard “If you have any questions about this individual, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 555-555-1234” is more than adequate. Bear in mind that a college recommendation letter full of spelling/grammatical errors reflects not only on you but on the individual that you are recommending. In order to avoid this, forward a copy of your letter to our business editors to ensure that you are representing yourself and the individual in the best way possible. Learn more about writing college recommendation letters in our e-book How to Write a Letter.