I am a full time researcher at a research institute, we are part of a university, but the institute does not have students, just researchers. I mostly have assistant researchers and interns that are undergrad. I am thinking of bringing on a final year highschool student who is really promising and has been winning some awards.

They are interested in me writing a recommendation letter (to US schools, but we are outside US). Is this advisable?

My main concerns are the appropriateness of a research based letter for undergrad admissions, as well as not being a Professor or Senior faculty as mentioned in questions specific for graduate school. However when I think about myself, I am pretty sure I had high school teachers write my recommendations, non of which had a PHD nor, obviously, were professors.

  • This question seems to essentially be about undergraduate admissions, which is out of scope on this site (per the help center). – ff524 Nov 4 '14 at 15:16
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    @ff524 but writing recommendation letters (for undergraduate admissions or otherwise) is a normal part of academic life. Seems like a good question to me. – Matthew Leingang Nov 4 '14 at 16:25
  • @Matthew the question isn't about how to write the letter, though; it's about how a letter would be perceived by undergraduate admissions committees. To me, it seems analogous to questions about how [something academic] is perceived by employers (also out of scope here). – ff524 Nov 4 '14 at 16:28
  • @ff524 I see, OP asks us to speculate whether such a letter would work in the applicant's favor. I get your point. Still seems like a worthwhile question. – Matthew Leingang Nov 4 '14 at 16:32

You're giving the student an extraordinary experience compared to her fellow applicants, so it's natural for her to ask you for a letter explaining that experience and your opinions of her work. And I think it's very reasonable to provide one.


I would say you're expected to write letters for high school students who work for you. Students usually do research to get into college, and in many cases, your letter is the whole reason the student chooses to join your lab.

When I applied to college the application asked for letters from a science and a humanities teacher, but also allowed us to submit an optional letter (which would presumably be yours).

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