As they seek employment, graduate study and other opportunities, students need quality letters of recommendation along with contacts to list as references on their applications. Your students will feel more comfortable asking you to be a reference if they are comfortable with you — encourage them to use your office hours for questions and feedback.
Letters should be about a page and generally have an introduction, body and closing. They should give an overview of the student's personal characteristics, strengths and capabilities; examples of the student's performance or relevant experience; and a sense of the student's potential. Read below for guidance on drafting recommendation letters.
You will be in the best position to write a letter of recommendation for students who were enrolled in one of your classes or for students you worked with in another capacity (for example, during a research or experiential learning opportunity). It is also acceptable practice to ask a student to provide a first draft of a recommendation letter.
Explain your relationship to the student and note the opportunity that the student is pursuing. You may also want to give a brief overview about the type of experience the student gained while working with you or attending your class, as well as information on special assignments or responsibilities. For example:
While under my supervision from January 2016 to September 2018, Claudia Gonzalez supported an important project exploring water treatment options as an undergraduate research assistant. Her contributions helped our research team identify one of several new potential approaches to creating sustainable sources of clean water. I happily recommend her to the environmental sciences graduate program at...
The body of the letter should provide more details about the student. You may want to identify positive personal characteristics, such as confidence, resiliency, dependability, leadership or creativity. This section is a good place to note knowledge about a specific subject area, problem-solving skills or the ability to work well with others. As appropriate, provide specific examples of strong performance or relevant experience. Use straightforward language and avoid jargon.
In the closing, briefly summarize the main points of the letter and clearly state that you recommend the student for the opportunity that they are pursuing.