Sample Reference Letters for a High School Student

High school students walking down the hall with backpacks.

Photo Alto / Frederic Cirou / Getty Images

Do you need to write a reference for a student? Your reference letter should include information on how you know the student, why you are recommending them, and what qualities they have that will help them succeed at work or in college.

If your letter will be used as part of a work application, ask the student to provide you with a copy of the job description they’re applying for, the name and email or “snail mail” address of the employer, and a copy of the student’s resume (if they have one). If not, ask for a list of activities the student is involved in. This should give you plenty of information to work with as you write your letter.

In the body of the letter, try to emphasize the qualities of the student that you feel speak most directly to the qualifications and skills that an employer or a college are seeking.

Close your letter by mentioning that you recommend the student and offer to provide additional information, if necessary. Even though the student may not have formal work experience, you can provide a strong reference based on the capacity in which you know them.

What to Include in the Reference

  • How you know the individual
  • How long you have known the person
  • What the student has accomplished
  • Why you are recommending them
  • How to contact you for follow-up questions

See below for both a sample character reference letter and an employment reference letter for a student.

Sample Character Reference Letter for a Student

The following is a sample character reference for a student who was a mother's helper and assisted in a retail store. Download the letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

 © The Balance 2018

Sample Character Reference Letter for a Student (Text Version)

Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email


City, State Zip Code

To Whom it May Concern:

I have had the pleasure of employing Katherine Kingston for eight years. During the years of our acquaintance, I have worked with Katherine in many capacities. She has been my mother's helper since the birth of my first child five years ago. Her responsibilities in this role have increased significantly since then with the subsequent addition of our second child. Katherine babysits and entertains both children (now a pre-schooler and a toddler) for three afternoons each week. She is also accommodating and flexible about taking care of the children at a moment’s notice in the evenings and on the weekends.

Katherine has also been involved with a variety of tasks at my retail business, a specialty shop that fits women for mastectomy, compression, maternity, and nursing products.

Her experiences, in addition to customer interface, have included working on inventories, writing our newsletter, and updating our mailing list and website.

Katherine is an intelligent, responsible, and personable young woman. She is always quick on her feet, with sensible reactions in all the circumstances I've seen her in. I feel confident in saying that she is capable of handling any situation with thoughtfulness and maturity.

Please contact me at or at 555.234.1234 if you have any questions I can answer for you.


Jill Johnson

Sample Reference Letter for a Job for a High School Student

The following is an example of a reference letter for employment written for a high school student seeking a job.

Dear Mr. Sullivan,

I understand that Mary Smith has applied for a job as a receptionist at your B&B for the upcoming summer season. Mary has worked as a waitress in my restaurant for the past two summers. She is a hard worker, always on time, and cheerful. I have been impressed with her ability to manage during hectic times, always remaining in control and keeping the customers happy. She gets along well with her co-workers as well as with the management team.

Mary is a bright young woman, and I am sure that she will excel at whatever job she undertakes. I can enthusiastically recommend her for the position that you have open.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions. I can be reached at 555-111-1234 or


Anthony White

Sending an Email Reference

When you're sending your reference in an email, include the student's name in the subject of the message:

Subject: Katherine Kingston - Reference