Tips for How to Write a Student Reference Letter

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Being asked to write a reference or recommendation letter for a student shouldn’t be taken lightly. A student doesn’t typically have much job experience, so a letter of recommendation can be crucial for him or her to get a job.

It’s important to realize that being asked to write any letter of recommendation is an honor. However, if a student asks you to serve as a reference, only agree if you know the student well and can speak highly of their character and work ethic.

What to Include in the Reference Letter

When you write your reference letter, use a business letter format with the appropriate salutation. Next, introduce yourself and then explain how you know the student. Be specific. For example, you might say that you own a communications company and the student was a full-time intern over the summer, or that he or she worked in your office part-time during college.

Or, you might say that as a college professor, you served as the student’s advisor for two years. Or perhaps the student worked for you as a teaching assistant. The important thing is to be as specific as possible. Also, be sure to provide concrete examples of the kind of work that the student did and how they excelled in each area. If possible, explain how the student's work benefited you, or your business. 

Finally, don’t forget to give your contact information so that the prospective employer can follow up with you if the student is being considered for the job.

Sample Reference Letter for a College Student

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

Screenshot of a student reference letter
©TheBalance 2018

Sample Reference Letter for a College Student (Text Version)

Janey Lee 
123 Main Street 
Anytown, CA 12345 

September 1, 2018

Drew Smith Director, Human Resources 
Acme Office Supplies 
123 Business Rd. 
Business City, NY 54321

Dear Mr. Smith,

I have had the pleasure of working with Alicia Jones for the past two years while she served as an assistant in the Office of Career Development, where I hold the position of director. Alicia has consistently shown the ability to establish an excellent rapport with many different constituents including students, alumni, administrators, and staff. She is genuinely interested in helping others and provides service in a consistently positive and helpful manner. She also knows how to comport herself when things go wrong.

For instance, during last year's Career Services Day, Alicia hosted the New Student's Desk and demonstrated grace under fire when the computers went down, and pamphlets and other crucial material were no longer available. She managed to reach our IT department on short notice, and they were able to rectify the situation without delay. This is but one example of how Alicia is self-assured and calmly handles stress, something very common in a busy office.

Alicia is also exceptionally responsible and is always the first to volunteer and help out with any task from the mundane to the challenging. I have rarely met a student employee over the past ten years upon whom I can rely on as much as Alicia. Initially, Alicia was hired to man the front-desk because of her strong interpersonal and communication skills. She quickly learned the parameters of the office and displayed such a strong work ethic I promoted her after just four months. Not surprisingly, she quickly learned the inner workings of her new position and before long excelled in her new role, completing tasks either on-time or ahead of schedule.

I think very highly of this young, bright woman and recommend Alicia without reservation for employment, whether it's full-time, part-time, or just seasonal work.

Please let me know if you have any further questions about this outstanding young woman. Also, I am available to talk to you by phone or video conference with you to further explain Alicia's qualifications in more detail.


Ms. Janey Lee

Sending the Letter

Be sure to ask the student how to send the letter of recommendation – is it to be mailed by post or sent by email? Keep a copy for your own records and send it to the student or the hiring manager of the company who requested the reference.

Additional Reference Letter Samples

A recommendation for a student is just one type of reference letter. Review more sample reference letters and recommendation letters, plus letter samples for character references. In addition, if you’re the one looking for a reference, you’ll find examples for letters asking for a recommendation.