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3 Awesome Counselor Rec Letter Examples

What’s Covered:


Writing letters of recommendation for students is an important responsibility for any high school counselor. If you’ve written thousands of letters or if you’ve never written a single one, looking at examples can give you an idea of what you’re doing right or what you might want to change.


In this post, we will share three example counselor rec letters to inspire your writing. We will also share our analysis of the letters and some common mistakes you should avoid to get a sense of what works best.


What Should a Counselor Rec Letter Include?


The main purpose of counselor rec letters is to provide insight into a student’s accomplishments, personality, and extenuating circumstances that admission officers wouldn’t know from looking at their profile.It shouldn’t be a summary of their resume in paragraph form; new details and information about the student should be revealed. Some things you should make sure you include are:


  • The student’s unique personal qualities and characteristics
  • The student’s academic goals and achievements (ie. challenging courses they took, their favorite subject, independent projects they undertook, major and career goals, etc.)
  • Two or three extracurricular activities the student excelled at and played a large role in
  • Specific details about the student’s actions and personality traits
  • Any hardships or challenges the student has faced (ie. demanding family life, academic setbacks, medical conditions, etc.)


Common Rec Letter Mistakes to Avoid 


1. Being Too Generic


It’s tough to write dozens, if not hundreds, of rec letters each year and make each one unique, but unfortunately a generic rec letter won’t help colleges at all. If you can swap the name of a student and the letter still makes sense, it isn’t detailed enough to make a difference to admissions officers.


You can avoid generic letters by including student-specific details throughout the letter. Good things to include are specific classes the student enjoyed or challenged themselves with, like an AP. You should also include extracurriculars that are specific to the student, rather than just mentioning they are an active member in their community. You should also be sure to describe the student’s character and back that up with examples.


2. Summarizing a Student’s Resume


As we said above, rec letters are used by colleges to learn information about the student they can’t get from the rest of their application. So, when a rec letter just reads like a resume, highlighting the student’s academic and extracurricular involvement without explaining the significance, it won’t be very useful.


A good way to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of summarizing everything on their resume is to pick out a few of the student’s accomplishments and expand on them with the STAR method. This popular interview method involves describing a Situation, what the student was Tasked to do, the Actions they took, and the Result.


Utilizing the STAR method for 1-2 academic achievements and 1-2 extracurricular accomplishments will allow you to dig deeper and focus on aspects of the student’s character that arose from their involvement in the given situations.


3. Writing Too Much or Too Little


Recommendation letters should be about one page in length—any more or less and it could raise eyebrows. Think about it from the perspective of admissions officers: you read hundreds of letters and essays every day and then come across a two page rec letter—do you really want to read it all or will it just make you annoyed? On the flip side, a letter that is too short might raise some red flags that the counselor doesn’t have enough good things to say about the student.


To avoid either situation, aim for a letter right around one page. Five or six paragraphs should be enough for you to get all of your ideas across. Concise, but detailed, is the way to go.


4. Forgetting to Proofread


The last thing you want is to submit a rec letter to a college with a typo, the wrong school name, or even the wrong student’s name. It’s normal to make some errors when drafting so many letters at once, but don’t forget to go back and read through each letter.


You can make your life easier by running it through a proofreading program. You also don’t need to draft a new letter for every school a student applies to. If you are uploading your recommendation to the Common App, it will get sent to all the schools, so leave any particular college out of the letter.


3 Counselor Rec Letter Examples


Example 1


It is with great enthusiasm that I write this letter of recommendation for Mark, an incredibly talented and dedicated student with whom I have been fortunate to work closely as his school counselor for the past three years. Mark possesses an unwavering determination and passion for learning, alongside a unique ability to balance his academic pursuits with a diverse range of extracurricular activities. I am confident that his skills, personality, and work ethic will make him an invaluable asset to the Lehigh University community.


Mark’s commitment to his education is evident in his strong academic record, which includes a 3.75 GPA, a 31 ACT score, and a plethora of honors and AP classes. Despite his rigorous coursework, Mark never shies away from responsibility or complains about his workload. Instead, he tackles each challenge head-on and consistently displays an eagerness to learn and grow.


In addition to his academic prowess, Mark has made significant contributions to our school community through his involvement in numerous extracurricular activities. As both the business manager for the school newspaper and co-editor of the yearbook for two years, he transformed our town’s perception of the school newspaper from a charitable endeavor to a valuable advertising platform. Mark’s keen business sense led him to create an advertising rate schedule that increased revenue and expanded the paper’s coverage, demonstrating his aptitude for economics and leadership.


Mark’s artistic talents are also evident in his outstanding photography skills, which have greatly enhanced both the newspaper and yearbook. As a member of our school’s drama club and Sound of Music play, a viola player, and a varsity linebacker on the football team, he showcases his versatility and ability to excel in various pursuits.


His role as the Vice President of the Physics Club and three-time class treasurer further exemplify his dedication and commitment to making a positive impact on our school. Mark’s self-motivation and discipline have allowed him to prioritize his goals and say no to opportunities that might detract from his overall success.


I am confident that Lehigh University is the perfect environment for Mark to continue pursuing his passion for economics while also exploring his remarkable artistic abilities. The supportive community and diverse range of opportunities available at Lehigh will undoubtedly help Mark thrive and achieve his full potential.


In summary, Mark’s determined, creative nature, paired with his exceptional academic and extracurricular accomplishments, make him a truly deserving candidate for admission to Lehigh University. I wholeheartedly endorse his application and believe that he will be an outstanding addition to your undergraduate community. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or require additional information.


Analysis of Example 1


This letter placed more of an emphasis on the student’s extracurricular accomplishments, giving the reader a strong sense of his varied interests and dedication to each one. The paragraph about his work with the school newspaper was a perfect example of how you should provide depth to a student’s accomplishments. 


Using the STAR method, the counselor told us about how the community viewed the paper as a “charitable endeavor” (situation), Mark was the business manager (task), and he created an advertising rate schedule (action) that raised revenues and coverage (result). Because of this detailed description of his involvement, we get a much better sense of what he is capable of.


One area of this essay that could use more attention is academics. We are told about his “plethora of honors and AP classes” and “rigorous coursework”, but we don’t get any further details. Especially because we are told about his desire to pursue economics, it would have been nice to have a sentence like this: “The high grades he consistently earned in AP Macroeconomics, blowing away his teacher with the extra research he conducted on market volatility, set him apart from his peers.


Example 2


It is with immense pleasure and genuine enthusiasm that I recommend Monica for admission to your undergraduate program. As her school counselor for the past four years, I have had the distinct honor of observing Monica’s remarkable growth and unwavering dedication to her education and personal development. She is a young woman of exceptional talent, resilience, and determination, who has consistently risen above the challenges that life has presented her with.


Monica’s commitment to her academics is truly commendable. Boasting an unweighted GPA of 3.80 and a class rank of 32/675, she has completed 11 Honors courses and 5 AP/IB courses, all while facing significant academic challenges. Monica struggled with math in 9th and 10th grade, but she did not let this deter her. Instead, she demonstrated the kind of resilience and growth mindset that set her apart from her peers. Monica’s potential need for additional support or tutoring in math should be seen not as a weakness, but as an opportunity for her to continue overcoming challenges and developing her strengths.


Monica’s passion for the arts is evident in her extracurricular activities. As the President of the Photography Club, she has displayed outstanding leadership skills, organizing events and activities for her fellow students. Her photography talents have been recognized with a District Art Show Excellence Award. In addition, Monica has been a dedicated member of the International Thespian Society and has received awards for her performances in the school’s drama program. These accomplishments speak volumes about her creativity, dedication, and ability to excel in various fields.


Despite experiencing anxiety throughout high school, Monica has shown tremendous resilience and has learned to work through her challenges, leading to a vast improvement in her overall well-being and academic performance. Her progress in this area is a testament to her strength of character and her commitment to personal growth.


Monica’s difficult home environment has required her to take on significant responsibilities, such as caring for her younger siblings while her mother works long hours. Yet, she has maintained a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to her family. Her involvement with the Interact Club and her selection for the National Honors Society further demonstrate her dedication to serving her community and her academic excellence.


I wholeheartedly endorse Monica’s application for admission to your undergraduate program. She is an inspiring, compassionate, intelligent, and determined young woman who possesses a clear sense of purpose and direction. I have no doubt that Monica will continue to thrive, making significant contributions to her college community and beyond. Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information.


Analysis of Example 2


This is a good example of a counselor using their letter to provide admissions officers with additional context on a student’s background. Throughout the letter, we are told about challenges Monica has had to overcome and the accomplishments she has achieved despite some setbacks. Providing the context makes her achievements even more impressive to the reader.


For example, the list of her GPA, class rank, and number of advanced courses isn’t a bad thing in this letter because it is paired with the knowledge she struggled in math but was determined to do better and sought out support. These details help us both understand her grades and her character.


The counselor also tells us about Monica’s anxiety and challenging home environment. These are all pieces of information admissions officers wouldn’t be able to find out elsewhere in the application, so it’s important that the counselor included them.


It would be nice if the counselor provided more details about the student’s character when discussing her extracurriculars though. When describing her involvement with photography and theater, the counselor highlights the awards she won, rather than using the STAR method to showcase Monica’s actions and how they reflect aspects of her personality.


Example 3


I am writing to give my highest recommendation to Jessie for your undergraduate program. Over the past three years, I have had the privilege of knowing Jessie as her school counselor, and have witnessed her incredible growth as a student, a community leader, and an aspiring math educator. Jessie’s great passion for mathematics is paralleled by her commitment to fostering inclusivity and giving back to her community, making her an exceptional candidate for your college.


Jessie’s dedication to her academic pursuits has led her to exhaust the highest level of mathematics offered at our school by her sophomore year. Undeterred by this limitation, she enrolled in multivariable calculus and linear algebra through a dual enrollment program, exemplifying her drive to constantly challenge herself. Jessie’s love for math has inspired her to pursue a career as a math teacher or professor, and I have no doubt that she will inspire the next generation of students.


Jessie is a star student and is high-achieving in all her endeavors. She is ranked third in the class of 500 students, has a 4.32 weighted GPA, and a 35 ACT score. Outside of the classroom, she is the student body vice president and captain of the track team, where she has earned three varsity letters and placed second in regionals in the 800m event.


However, what sets Jessie apart is her innate desire to help others. Realizing the need for accessible tutoring in our school, Jessie founded Math on a Mission, a free math tutoring program aimed at assisting low-income students. Her initiative has grown from a simple idea to a team of 10 dedicated tutors who offer both in-school and after-hours support. This program not only showcases Jessie’s resourcefulness and leadership skills but also her deep-rooted empathy for her fellow students.


As student body vice president, Jessie has been instrumental in implementing measures to make our school more inclusive and welcoming. She’s established a free pantry where students can give and take food, as well as a free closet where students can give and take gently-used clothing. These resources have made a significant impact on the lives of her fellow students, as the majority of our district is low-income and receives free or reduced lunch.


In all my years as a counselor, I have seldom come across a student as passionate, driven, and committed as Jessie. Her unique combination of academic excellence, leadership, and a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of others make her an ideal candidate for your institution. I wholeheartedly endorse Jessie for your college, and I am confident that she will not only thrive in your academic environment, but also make a lasting impact on your campus community.


Thank you for considering my recommendation. Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Analysis of Example 3


This is a great example of writing a letter that contributes to and supports a student’s application theme. In the introduction, the counselor pointed out Jessie’s passion for mathematics and her commitment to giving back to the community, and the rest of the letter honed in on those two qualities. The reader walks away feeling like they understand these two crucial aspects of Jessie’s personality, which is exactly what counselors should strive to do with their letters.


Another positive is how the counselor wove the student’s character traits into the discussion of her academics and extracurriculars. For example, we are told about her “drive to constantly challenge herself” through the example of her taking dual enrollment math classes. We also learn about her empathy and desire to help others through her two extracurriculars. This makes the letter feel more coherent and makes the examples stand out more because we can associate her accomplishments with certain traits.


One thing that stands out in this letter as something to avoid is the third paragraph that lists out Jessie’s accolades without further detail. While it’s okay in this instance because the rest of the body paragraphs are so detailed, in general, counselors should avoid listing out ACT scores and GPAs without connecting it to an aspect of the student’s personality. Admissions officers will find that information elsewhere in the application, so save your limited space for providing new details.


How to Get Your Rec Letter Draft in Minutes


Don’t want to spend hours writing letter after letter? We can help! CollegeVine’s free AI Rec Letter Assistant creates a first draft of counselor rec letters within minutes. 


All you have to do is input information about your student, and you can also upload an example of a past letter so it can write in your voice. After you get your draft, you’ll be able to edit it and focus on making your student’s story shine.


In fact, the examples shown above were created by the AI Rec Letter Assistant and then edited. Check it out for yourself!

Short Bio
Lauryn is a student at Cornell University. She has been working at CollegeVine for over three years as a blog writer and editor.