Academic Recommendation Letter Examples and Writing Tips

Tips for writing an academic reference letter

The Balance

Academic recommendations include a variety of letters. These might be college recommendation letters, graduate school recommendation letters, letters from teachers, letters for teachers, and more.

A well-written recommendation letter can help a student get accepted to college, graduate school, or another type of academic program or experience.

Review this advice on writing an academic recommendation letter, what to include, how to format it, then check out examples and a template to download to get started on your own recommendation letter.

Tips for Writing an Academic Recommendation Letter

Think carefully about saying yes. Make sure you only agree to write the letter if you can write a positive recommendation. If you don’t think you can, tell the person you are not comfortable writing the recommendation. Here’s how to turn down a recommendation request.

Focus on the particular school. If the recommendation is for a college or graduate school, ask the student for information on the school or program. Try to focus on the student’s skills that relate to their ability to succeed at that school. If the letter is for a teacher, ask for a description of the job.

Even if it is a more general letter, ask the person about the types of schools, internships, or jobs they are applying for.

Collect information. Ask the person for whom you’re writing the letter for a copy of his or her resume or CV so that you can speak to the person’s experience. If it is for a student, you might also ask for a list of the person’s relevant coursework. The more information you have, the easier it will be to provide a strong recommendation.

Explain how you know the person. In the introduction, briefly explain how you know the person. If the letter is for a former student, explain how many courses the student took with you, and/or if you worked with them in any other capacity (as your teaching assistant, an advisee, etc.).

Include specific examples. In the letter, provide specific examples of ways in which the person has demonstrated various skills and qualities. Try to think of examples from when the person was in your class or when the person worked for you.

Remain positive. State that you think this person is a strong candidate for the job or the school. You might say something like you, “recommend this person without reservation.” Emphasize this, especially at the beginning and end of the letter. After all, you want to help this candidate stand out.

Share your contact information. Provide a way for the school or the employer to contact you if they have further questions. Include your email address, telephone number, or both at the end of the letter.

Follow the submission guidelines. Ask the person for whom you are writing how to submit the letter. Make sure you follow any requirements, especially about where to send it and when, as well as the format (for example, PDF, physical letter, etc.).

Recommendation Letter Examples

It is a good idea to review letter of recommendation samples before writing your letter. Along with helping your letter layout, examples can help you see what kind of content you should include in your document.

You might also look at letter of recommendation templates to get a sense of how to format your recommendation, and what to include (such as introductions and body paragraphs).

There are also useful guidelines for formatting recommendation letters, including length, format, font, and how to organize your letters.

While examples, templates, and guidelines are a great starting point for your letter, you need to be flexible. Always tailor a letter example to fit the candidate’s work history and the job or school to which he or she is applying.

Academic Recommendation Samples

Here are several examples of how to create enthusiastic recommendation letters within an academic context.

College Recommendation Letters

Have a look at these examples to see how to write a strong letter of recommendation for a rising or current college student.

Graduate School Recommendation Letters

How you structure a recommendation for graduate school will depend upon the type of program a student is applying for. Graduate programs can be highly competitive (especially when they offer substantial funding to their students), and so your recommendation may well make the difference in whether its subject is accepted.

Academic Recommendation Letter Template

This is an example of an academic recommendation letter. Download the letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

 © The Balance 2018

Sample Academic Recommendation Letter (Text Version)

John I. Academician
1450 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence, KS 66045 
(000) 123-4567 

May 16, 2022

University of Tennessee
Admissions Committee
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321

Dear Admissions Committee Members:

It is with much pleasure and enthusiasm that I am writing to you to support the candidacy of Elizabeth Hagen for admission to the English Department’s Graduate Program at the University of Tennessee.

I first met Elizabeth when she enrolled in my sophomore-level course in Victorian Literature at the University of Kansas, a class in which she demonstrated writing and literary analysis talents far beyond the capability of most of her peers. Her enthusiasm for Dickens and post-modern critical analysis led her to complete other classes in advanced Victorian Studies with me, and it was my privilege to serve as her advisor for her senior honors project, “Gender Ambiguity in Dickens’ Orphans.”

Elizabeth’s penetrating mind allows her not only to grasp the basics of our curriculum, but also to formulate highly original and persuasive interpretative arguments. She demonstrates superb leadership and organizational skills in leading group projects, and is one of our most highly ranked undergraduate teaching assistants in our entry-level English 101 courses. She is also a humorous and engaging speaker, and has presented two extremely well-received papers at the annual Victorian Studies conference at the University of Florida.

I am thus convinced that Elizabeth will prove herself to be a valuable contributor to your English Department, both as a graduate student and as a Teaching and / or Research Assistant. She is more than deserving of any financial assistance you can offer as she completes her Master’s and Doctoral degrees.

Please let me know if there is any additional information I can provide to support you in your decision-making process. I am emailing copies of this letter to Dr. Greg Trahern, English Chair, and to Dr. Jennifer McCracken, senior professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Tennessee.


Signature (hard copy letter)

John I. Academician

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