Here is an actual recommendation written by a high school teacher for a student applying to college. Names and other personal information have been changed.
Although this recommendation is for a student who had a gap year, please take note that all the parts of a good recommendation are represented.
- The introduction: how the recommender knows the student, for how long, and class(es) taught.
- Academic Assessment: about the student’s participation, standing among classmates, and initiatives: extra work, independent research, working with other students or teachers.
- Character: about the student’s work ethic, willingness to share in class, approach to learning, ability to collaborate, energy and interests, etc. This part is augmented by adding information about out-of-class/community/sports involvement.
- Summary Statement: where the recommender ties together the student’s skills and interests to the college(s) and program(s) he is applying to.
Also note that the more details and examples offered the better.
January 9, 2016
From: Dr. Joseph Kane
English Department Chair
Hopkins High School
Re: Jesse Finch
Jesse Finch has impressed me as unusual since his freshman year of high school when he was enrolled in my Topics seminar course, “Law and Justice” (fall) and “Morality” (spring). Jesse sat, a small young man among many seniors, and quietly and philosophically questioned and connected many heavy thoughts, from the concept of absolute freedom of speech to the difference between Kant’s free will and idealism. Jesse was an excellent student. His writing was clear and incisive, whether he wrote an analysis of a quotation or did something more freelance such as compare religion to football. He was verbally fluent and mindful in discussion, thinking well on his feet, as an attorney for Shylock or debating a theory of justice. Jesse was, and is, an eclectic reader and able to make reference to many ideas with concrete examples. He is also a questioner and he loves thought. Many times we have sat and discussed the goals of human endeavor or the pain of disappointments.
As a sophomore Jesse took my Speech I class, and I observed him perform skits, stage motivational speeches with dramatic pathos, and work with his peers in group activities. He was patient, non-judgmental, helpful, and encouraging to all around him. I saw a young man intimately involved in the intellectual world being sensitive to people and appreciative of others as positive resources. It was in the second semester of his sophomore year Jesse went to El Salvador.
When Jesse returned his junior year, he had changed. He was discouraged and was reminded too much here in the States of human wastefulness in comparison to what he had just experienced. He would talk to me often and really search for an answer to what he was doing in high school. We would read aloud passages of Waiting for Godot and need to say no more for the moment. But, Jesse began to channel his disappointment into positive avenues, getting more involved in a local youth group, protesting against the Disney store, and making nachos in his own crock pot in our cafeteria to show how much more cheaply they could be sold. Gradually, he found a way to connect the ideal and the real and matured in his thinking and attitude.
In his senior year Jesse again enrolled in Topics, studying “Religion” and “Modernism” over the two semesters. In discussion of Shaw’s Saint Joan Jesse was the first to make the distinction between violence and feeling abused when our discussion got bogged down about the act of writing as an act of violence. He is perhaps the only student who would have been able to discriminate such nuance.
During this year since his graduation from Hopkins High School, Jesse has been in El Salvador working to organize for improvements for the poor. He has also traveled around the U.S. working with various organizations to unify poor workers and the disenfranchised. He has visited me over the year when he has been home, and I have been impressed with the nature of his commitment and with the maturity of thoughts he has expressed. He is ready now to move on to a college education. He wants now to know the whys of economics and social institutions. He wishes to apply theory to his real experiences, and he wants to begin to mold a career, one which will help our country.
Jesse can not be but an excellent addition to any post secondary program. He has unusual experiences to share and a maturity that comes from careful consideration of what he has experienced. He will bring people along with him with fun and humor; with zeal he will encourage exploration of the quality and meaning of his world. Jesse represents what is best and most pleasurable about educating and about education at their highest levels.