Recommendation letters are confidential evaluations. Usually, teachers and counselors write the letters on behalf of the student to help college admissions or scholarship committees in the selection process. Effective letters use specific examples, such as class assignments, to describe how and why the student is a suitable candidate. Learn to write a letter that presents your student in the best light. Feel free to include your contact info, which will most likely never be used.
Request that the student provide you with application information. Help the student understand what you are looking for by creating a master worksheet that lists the items necessary for you to write recommendation letters. Make duplicate copies of the worksheet and distribute to students as needed. Include these items on the worksheet: address, application deadline, a resume, an academic paper written for your class, copies of the student’s personal statement, recommendation form and waiver form. (The waiver form indicates whether the student agrees to surrender her rights to read your letters.)
Address recommendation letters to the appropriate party, especially when you write a letter on a separate sheet of paper. If you cannot locate the contact information on the student application form, use “Dear College Admissions Representative” or “Dear Scholarship Selection Committee."
Establish your credibility and relationship to the student. Tell the reader your position and how you know the student; for instance, “I served as the student’s language arts teacher during his junior year.”
Respond to the questions posed on the application form. Some applications will ask specific questions about the student; for example, “How do you rate the student’s academic performance?” Other applications suggest topics for you to address in relation to the student--for instance, character, leadership or intellectual capabilities.
Close letters with your contact information. Indicate that you are available to answer additional questions, then add your name, department, school email and phone number.
Proofread recommendation letters. Read each letter for spelling and punctuation errors.
Seal the letter officially with a school stamp, or unofficially with your signature and date across the envelope flap. Send the letter directly to the college or return it to the student to forward with other application materials.
The average length for a college recommendation letter is two pages (typed, single spaced).
Write a recommendation for student employment using similar steps. But limit your evaluation to work ethic or qualities of interest to an employer. Remember to address the letter to the person in charge of hiring personnel, such as the manager or owner. Keep letters of recommendation for employment to one page.
Make copies of all recommendation letters and keep them on file in case a student needs additional letters.
Do not agree to write recommendation letters for a student if you cannot write a persuasive and positive evaluation.
Do not reference student weaknesses. Write on an area in which the student has made measurable gains (documented evidence such as an academic paper) instead.
Do not include confidential information about the student such as class rank, standardized test scores, an Individual Education Program (IEP) or Individual Learning Plan (ILP).
Renee Vians has been writing online since 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism and language arts certification from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Her articles have appeared on various websites.