Strong letters of reference are vital for individuals who wish to enter graduate school. When employees decide to further their education—often because they want to increase their value to their employer by learning new skills—they face intense competition not only for a place in a good graduate program, but also for the financial aid resources that they may need to cover the costs of tuition, books, and supplies.
If you, as a manager, are asked to provide a reference letter for an employee, keep in mind that the details you provide are going to be important in helping your employee stand out from the other graduate school applicants.
What to Include in a Graduate School Reference Letter
Give some thought to what you believe to be your employee’s greatest strengths. In your letter, you should provide:
- A short summary of your history with the employee (How and when did you meet? How long have you worked together? In what capacity?)
- A detailed statement of the characteristics that you believe will enable your employee to excel in his or her graduate studies
- A few specific descriptions of the contributions your employee has brought to your organization; and
- A strong closing statement of endorsement for your employee’s candidacy.
Tips for Writing a Reference for Graduate School
Before you write your reference letter, ask your employee for a copy of their resume and a description of the graduate program(s) to which they are applying. This will give you more good information to work with as you craft your letter.
Be aware of the deadline by which your letter needs to be submitted. Give yourself enough time to ensure it arrives well before the cut-off date.
Reference Letter Sample for Graduate School From a Manager
You can use this reference letter sample as a model. Download the template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or read the text version below.
Reference Letter Sample for Graduate School From a Manager (Text Version)
To Whom It May Concern:
It is my honor to recommend John Doe for matriculation into the Graduate program at Rochester Institute. I have had the pleasure to know and work with John for the last six years. He first worked with me as an undergraduate intern in the software development organization at XYZ in Syracuse, NY.
Following his internship with me and his graduation from Rochester Institute, I was fortunate enough to keep track of John’s career so that, when the opportunity arose, I was able to recruit him to his current position here at ABCD. The same characteristics that convinced me to hire him away from his previous employer, B Company, are also why I am happy to provide him with an unqualified endorsement for graduate study.
John brings to all of his activities energy, enthusiasm, and commitment. This is to be expected in any successful member of an entrepreneurial organization, and in this regard, John fits in well. Be it in the parsing of intricate algorithms in a billing system, the crafting of an object hierarchy, or the establishment of best practices with an emerging technology, John consistently delivers high-quality software for our organization. This speaks to his overall intellect and ability to learn, attributes that will serve him well in his graduate study.
While John is a relatively junior member of our organization as measured by tenure, he quickly established himself as a go-to person in the product domains in which he has worked. He has been ever-willing to work with members of our organization to share his knowledge and expertise, most notably as a presenter for presentations on product functions.
He has a deep-rooted spirit of helpfulness that, coupled with his quick grasp of subject matter, speaks well to his potential as a teaching assistant or instructor.
What I find most engaging in John's character are his wide-ranging interests outside of software. Two of his abiding interests are game theory and economics. He can be quickly engaged in an in-depth discussion, for instance, of the rationale behind EZ-Pass, the lack of rationality of the financial markets, or the optimal approach for making a few quid on the super-bowl. John's broad range of interests speaks well to his potential as a researcher, both in bringing a wide range of theory to the research at hand, as well as carrying forward new hypotheses of interest to researchers.
John Doe is a valued member of our organization whom we have learned we can rely on, regardless of the difficulty of the task to hand or the novelty of the challenge. His combination of intelligence, commitment, perseverance, creativity, and a compassionate character will certainly make him a valuable member of any academic program. I encourage you to look favorably upon his application.
More Academic Recommendation Letters
Review more academic recommendation letters for a variety of circumstances, and download a template you can use as a starting point for your own letter.