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Sample Reference Letter

College Admissions

If you’ve been approached by a student or employee and are struggling with how a reference letter should look, I have some thoughts. It’s something I used to struggle with, because often I had so much to say about a wonderful candidate, but no idea how to compose it! Keep reading to see a perfect sample reference letter and a breakdown of why this letter is so amazing.

A Perfect Sample Reference Letter

Mary Sue, Ph.D


International Academy of Books

405 East 42nd Street

New York, NY 10017

Dear Dr. Sue,

It is my great pleasure to provide this reference letter for Jennifer as she pursues English as a Foreign Language teaching position with International Academy of Books in New York City. As an associate professor of English literature at IDK University, I taught Jennifer in four classes and served as her thesis advisor during her senior year. Jennifer continually impresses me with her adventurous spirit, passion for knowledge, and love of helping others. With her background in English literature, experience living abroad, and her time spent tutoring ESL students in our city, I am confident Jennifer will make an excellent addition to your company.

I taught Jennifer during her sophomore, junior, and senior years in Oedipus Tyrannus: Thinking in and with Tragedy, Tolstoy: Fictions of Peace and War, Film Noir: French and American, and The Other Within the Self: Identity in Balkan Literature and Film. I also worked closely with her on her senior thesis, which explored gender in the Balkans literature. Jennifer was awarded summa cum laude, because of her dedication and commitment to learning. She is an incredibly talented writer who offers an enthusiastic perspective in essays, class discussions, and personal conversations. I firmly believe Jennifer possesses the mental dexterity, verbal skills, compassion, and depth of thought to be an engaging teacher.

Jennifer is passionate about connecting with people from different cultures, something I  have had the joy of witnessing multiple times as she explores new ideas through world literature. I recall one insightful paper Jennifer wrote for which she interviewed Balkan immigrants about their perspectives on Western classics. It was very clear from this paper that she was passionate about cross-cultural exchange. She also spends her time volunteering with ESL students in local high schools, out of the pure desire to help others. As an English teacher with the International Academy of Books, I am confident Jennifer will generate a similar passion in her students.

In addition to her studies and volunteer work with ESL students, Jennifer has spent two semesters studying abroad with a host family in Bucharest, Romania. She speaks very highly of her host family, their dinners and daily conversations in Romanian, and their patience with her as she mastered this language. She is visiting her host family again this summer for her host sister’s high school graduation and contacts them regularly through email. Jennifer enjoys meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and traveling as an engaged participant. These experiences and passions make Jennifer the perfect fit for the opening with the International Academy of Books.

Jennifer has my wholehearted and unequivocal support in her search for an English teaching position with your company. She is thoughtful, passionate, and open-minded; with a clear commitment to teaching and helping others understand different cultures. I have no doubt that Jennifer will make an outstanding English as a Foreign Language teacher at International Academy of Books. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Tiffany Price, Ph.D

Associate Professor of Comparative Literature

IDK University


What Makes This Sample Reference Letter Work

So why does this letter work? Because of how heavily involved Jennifer is in academics and studying abroad, she probably didn’t have many people she could ask for a reference letter. In this case, her choice to ask her professor for a reference letter was ideal, because Professor Price taught Jennifer in a field closely related to the place she is applying; the International Academy of Books.

Professor Price opens with her support for Jennifer’s application to an English teaching position in New York. She discusses Jennifer’s specific academic interests, how they relate to this opening, and essentially how these experiences have paved the way for Jennifer to come to this company. Professor Price also takes the time to characterize Jennifer as someone with a dedication to learning about and exploring other cultures, specifically mentioning Jennifer’s study abroad experience in Romania, her relationship with her host family, and that she spends her time volunteering with ESL students in her community. Combined, these experiences have prepared Jennifer for her work as an English teacher.

Even though Professor Price has not personally supervised Jennifer teaching others, she can offer perspective on how her student’s strengths will make her a successful teacher. This insight is very valuable, because Professor Price has worked with Jennifer over a number of years, during four classes, and with Jennifer’s senior thesis paper. Because of all this time spent with Jennifer, Professor Price is able to assure the prospective employer that Jennifer is an ideal candidate.

Remember when you’re writing a reference letter for one of your students: tie everything you include back to the position they’re applying for. Think of it like writing a short paper. Your thesis or main idea is that your student is the perfect fit for this job and you need to supply evidence to back up your claim.

Be sure to click here if you need to read over a few more examples before writing your own!

Reference letters are crucial to landing a job, especially in our tough economy. Now you have a sample reference letter, a breakdown of why it works, and even extra examples in case you need more practice. With a little tweaking and thoughtful writing, you’ll be sending a reference letter that will make prospective employers jump at the chance to hire your student.

What do you like best about writing reference letters? Do you have any additional tips you think we should add? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!

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