How to Write a University Recommendation Letter (With Tips)

Updated June 10, 2023

When students apply for admission to a college or university, the school may often request one to three letters of reference. While some have strict rules regarding who might write the letters, others are more flexible. Learning how to write a university recommendation letter can help students get admission to their university choice. In this article, we define a recommendation letter for a student, explore what universities look for in this letter, explain how to write the letter, and review an example of a letter.

What is a university recommendation letter for a student?

A university recommendation letter for a student is often used to help with the application process, whether for university or to begin a profession. This letter is generally requested by students from someone who has spent significant time with them in an academic or professional setting, such as a teacher, supervisor, or mentor. Recruiters use recommendation letters to acquire a credible source's view of a student's talents, achievements, and personal attributes.

They're often used to show a student's strong work ethic and capacity to study at a high level. Others just submit letters of reference as an optional supplement to the application. When universities request letters of reference, they're very crucial to the college admissions staff. It may assist them in developing a more comprehensive picture of the student and how they might function at their school. While applications and test results are important, letters of recommendation provide them with a more intimate look at the student's greatest attributes.

Related: How to Write a Reference Letter for a Teacher (With Steps)

How to write a letter of recommendation

While you might write a letter that is unique to the student and their abilities, there are a few key steps you can take to develop a successful letter of recommendation:

1. Consider whether to accept the request

It's critical that a letter of recommendation be truthful, so think about whether you can accept the request before you start writing. Consider if you have seen firsthand evidence of the student's talents and whether you can witness their personal and academic qualities. If you don't believe you can make a recommendation in good faith, you may deny the request. Only compose a recommendation letter if you believe you can speak positively and enthusiastically about the student.

Related: How to Write Academic Recommendation Letters (With Examples)

2. Ask about the student's academic accomplishments

Begin by requesting a thorough summary of the student's academic accomplishments, including any test scores, extra-curricular activities, or groups in which they participated. In addition to reviewing their resume, it might be beneficial to organize a one-on-one meeting with the student to discuss the main characteristics and achievements that are most relevant to their application. If you believe you need additional information about the student's future goals or why they're applying to a certain organization, you may ask the student for it.

3. Research the organization

If you customize your letter to the exact organization to which the student is applying, it might be more successful. Investigate their goal, basic beliefs, and attributes that they want in their students or employees. Try to find how the student has displayed the traits or values that the school or business values the most. If the student is applying to many institutions or companies, you might create a single generic letter showcasing their qualifications for the topic or field.

4. Create an effective introduction

Make your letter trustworthy by introducing yourself appropriately at the beginning of your endorsement. Tell the reader who you are and why you're competent to speak on behalf of the student. Include your work title and the topic or course you taught the student if you're the student's instructor. Alternatively, if you have a different connection with the student, such as being the coordinator of a club in which the student was engaged, describe your role and the goal of the organization. Understanding your viewpoint may greatly increase the value of your opinion to the reader.

Related: How to Request a Letter of Recommendation from an Employer (With Tips)

5. Describe your academic affiliation with the student

You might continue your letter's introduction by offering further information about your academic connection with the student. Explain your relationship with the student and consider explaining your initial impression of them. You might then discuss how you have seen them grow as an exceptional and well-rounded student throughout their schooling. If your student astonished or inspired you with their performance or attitude in your classroom or academic environment, share your thoughts with the reader.

6. Highlight their most important qualities and achievements

Consider who you're writing to while you're composing the body of your recommendation letter. Emphasize the student's important qualities and achievements that are relevant to their unique organization. When applying to a university, the admissions committee may be interested in how involved the student is in their studies. Mention if the student is likely to join any clubs or organizations, and also whether they're a team player who might help their classmates.

You may highlight the student's many accomplishments to their school to indicate how they might help the institution or organization that they're applying to. Use examples from their resume or relate to achievements you've seen. Here are some examples of accomplishments you might include in your recommendation letter:

  • academic success, for example, increased or maintained grades

  • leadership positions in clubs, teams, or organizations

  • winning competitions or being awarded and recognized

  • executing individual and collaborative projects

7. Conclude your letter

Conclude your letter by reassuring the reader of your support for the student's application and why you believe they might benefit their organization. Because the reader may have more questions based on your advice, it's a good idea to provide your contact information, such as a phone number or e-mail address. Close your letter by indicating your availability for a future conversation. This last section might show the reader that you have confidence in the student's talents, which may impact the success of their application.

Related: How to Ask Your Professor for a Letter of Recommendation

What do universities look for in a letter of recommendation?

Universities may check for a student's skills, personal traits, accomplishments, and if they have been personally recommended by a reputable instructor, mentor, or employer. They also can look for evidence of progress and high academic achievement, and also specific instances of how the student has displayed these talents. They may also look for indications of a student's commitment to work hard and study at a high level.

Related: How to Write a Letter of Recommendation for PhD Programs

Student letter of recommendation example

Here's an example of a letter of recommendation:

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Stacey Jefferson. I have 15 years of experience working as a fine arts instructor at Academy High School and have seen many students come and go. Annie Chiu stands out as one of my brightest, most dedicated art students.

During our time together, Annie displayed great talents in technical applications, such as Photoshop, InDesign, and other graphic design tools. During her time in my class, her understanding of digital art and the tools of the trade grew far more than that of her peers.

My first experience witnessing Annie's passion and dedication to design was during her first major project assignment in my class. She worked tirelessly to produce a flawless website mockup achieving the highest grade not only in her own class, but across all of my classes. She sought feedback during office hours and constantly iterated to improve her work, displaying her first-class dedication and commitment that would carry through all of her artwork during my time as her instructor.

It's not just her technical skills that impress me. Annie was a joy to have in my classes because of her positive attitude and strict adherence to due dates. Her can-do attitude and teamwork skills were also necessary and valued not just by myself, but by her peers, who often relied on her to get work done.

It is my pleasure to strongly recommend Annie Chiu to your graphic design program at Meryweather University. I am absolutely confident that Annie might achieve great things at your institution. Not only might she bring the kind of skills and experiences you're looking for in a candidate, but she can also quickly become an asset and help your other students grow in any way she can.

If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at 555-123-4567, or by email at

Stacey Jefferson
Fine Arts Instructor
Academy High School

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