A Sample Letter of Recommendation

Professor's Recommendation for a Student Applying to Graduate School

letter of recommendation
Sam Kinison and Rodney Dangerfield (as Professor Terguson and Thornton Melon, respectively) in the comedy film Back to School (1986). (Orion Pictures/Getty Images)

In this sample letter, a college professor recommends a student for a place in a graduate program. Note some of the key characteristics of this letter, and let them guide you as you create your own letter.

Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph and closing paragraph of the recommendation letter are shorter than the body paragraphs and more general in their observations.

In the first sentence, the recommending professor (Dr. Nerdelbaum) identifies the student (Ms. Terri Student) and the particular program she's applying for (the Mental Health Counseling program at Grand Lakes University). In the second sentence of the opening paragraph, the professor gives an overview of the student's academic strengths.

Body Paragraphs

The two body paragraphs are organized chronologically. In the first sentence of the first body paragraph, the professor describes his supervisory relationship with the student and specifies how long he served in that role. The first body paragraph provides specific examples of how the student "generously assisted others." The first body paragraph includes a positive evaluation of the student's communication skills.

In the second body paragraph, the professor focuses on the student's work in the master's program that he directs. The second paragraph notes the student's ability to conduct independent research and complete projects "in record time."

Concluding Paragraph

The short conclusion highlights the student's sense of commitment and determination. In the final sentence, the professor clearly and firmly delivers his overall recommendation.

Sample Letter of Recommendation

Use this sample letter as a guide, but feel free to make changes according to the specific circumstances and student.

Dear Professor Terguson:
I welcome this opportunity to recommend Ms. Terri Student for a place in the Mental Health Counseling program at Grand Lakes University. She is an extraordinary student and an exceptional individual—extremely bright, energetic, articulate, and ambitious.
For more than two years, Ms. Student worked for me as an assistant in the Office of Liberal Studies, managing routine office duties, helping to organize student workshops and forums, and interacting daily with faculty members, staff, and students. During this time I grew increasingly impressed by her academic and personal achievements. In addition to her outstanding work in a challenging undergraduate psychology program, Terri generously assisted others both on and off campus. She provided tutoring for other students, was actively involved in HOLF (Hispanic Outreach and Leadership at Faber), and served as a lab assistant in the psychology department. An accomplished writer and a gifted presenter (in both English and Spanish), she was recognized by her professors as one of our most promising graduates.
Later, while working as an assistant to the director of the college's residence halls, Terri continued her studies at the graduate level in our Master of Liberal and Professional Studies degree program. I think I can speak for all of her professors when I say that she was a model student, effectively augmenting her coursework in leadership and international studies with independent research in psychology. Terri's overall graduate GPA of 4.0 was hard earned and richly deserved. In addition, she completed all required coursework in record time so that she could accept an internship at the Coolidge Center in Arizona.
I assure you that Ms. Student will serve your program exceedingly well: She sets the highest standards for herself and does not rest until she accomplishes all that she sets out to do. I recommend Ms. Terri Student most highly and without reservation.
Dr. John Nerdelbaum,
Director of Liberal Studies at Faber College
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "A Sample Letter of Recommendation." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/sample-letter-of-recommendation-1-1689733. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). A Sample Letter of Recommendation. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/sample-letter-of-recommendation-1-1689733 Nordquist, Richard. "A Sample Letter of Recommendation." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/sample-letter-of-recommendation-1-1689733 (accessed March 25, 2023).