How to write a reference (recommendation) letter?

A reference letter is one of the mandatory documents that are required for admission to the university. This type of letter is required for application as a stamp of integrity, capability and character of the candidate, applying for a study programme. See also examples of reference letters.

A reference letter is similar to a recommendation letter. The only difference is that recommendation letter is usually sent to the recognized person, while reference letters are sent to unfamiliar people at universities.

Who can be asked to write a reference letter?

  • School leavers can ask teachers or the principal for a letter of reference.
  • A recommendation letter for a student or employee can be written by somebody from the teaching stuff (as senior teachers, professors, career officers) or by employers.

Here are some easy guidelines by writing of a reference letter:

  1. Explain your relationship to the applicant and mention the length of time you know each other.

  2. Write about the applicant’s exceptional qualities and why he or she stands out from others with the same environment. Jot down all the good qualities and skills the applicant has, as these may be relevant to his or her job or field. You can also provide some particular examples to back your views.

  3. Point the applicant’s efficiency and skills in a specific branch and catch the interest of the applicant. Along with this, you can mention past experiences, communication and organizational skills, the way he or she interacts with people.

  4. Writing about any weakness of the applicant is to be avoided at all costs. The other option is to refuse writing this letter, if you feel that you do not find anything positive about the applicant.

  5. Be sure to write about your own qualification. You should make an impression on the reader too.

  6. You should call attention to the some of the main points that you would like the reader to take note of. You should convey this in an effective way instead of just rewriting what the applicant had mentioned.

  7. Also, it is best to avoid writing about the applicant’s religion, age, race, country, marital status, disability or gender in this sort of letters. If it is absolutely necessary, then only should you mention these facts.

  8. Your letter should be crisp without being brief. Normally, a recommendation letter to a prospective employer should consist of one page, while it should be two paged letter for university and school admissions.

  9. You can also add your contact information if you would like to get a follow up letter from the reader.

  10. Do write a good and solid ending paragraph. It should not be too superfluous, as this may give the impression that you are partial to the applicant.

  11. Finally, make sure to proofread the reference letter, as it representative for you and the applicant.

Examples of reference letters

Please find examples of reference letters for students applied to Dutch universities.

  1. Reference letter for a student applied for Computer Sciences programme #1
  2. Reference letter for a student applied for Computer Sciences programme #2
  3. Reference letter for a student applied for Applied Physics programme #1
  4. Reference letter for a student applied for Applied Physics programme #2
  5. Recommendation letter for a student enrolled to Business and Management Master's programme at European business school.
  6. Example of reference letter formatting for Logistics programme (.pdf)
  7. Format of recommendation letter for Logistics programme (.pdf)

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Comments (4) Comment the article

07/09/2016, 12:04 # mary

reference letter for library and information science

19/09/2016, 17:34 # staff

Unfortunately we don't have such letter for library and information science.
But, for examle, you can take one of theese letters and rewrite it for your specialization.
Be creative :)

04/04/2017, 01:27 # max

How does someone -who graduated years ago with a Bachelor degree and has been working since then- get a recommendation letter from 2 academics to get admitted for a Masters? I understand asking for that when applying for a PhD. University will never be an option for someone in the Netherlands if they don't know enough "academics"

04/04/2017, 11:50 # staff

Hello, Max!
You need to have, for example, one letter from your boss and another from your teacher from the university or academic master

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