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As a new faculty member, I have just received my first request to write a recommendation letter for an undergrad student who is looking to transfer to a more prestigious university.

I taught this student in a class in his first semester, and have met chatted with him twice informally for about one hour each time because I am his academic advisor.

What should I write in my recommendation letter? I have some information about the student, but I don't know the student as well as I might know my PhD student for example. Is there some kind of standard template that I can follow, so that I can do a good job but also be done with it quickly?

A second smaller but related question. This student has a very high GPA. Should I persuade this student to stay, or let someone in my department know that this student wishes to transfer, so that someone can persuade him to stay? Needless to say, I would not try to sabotage his application by writing a bad reference letter.

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A letter for undergraduate admissions need not be long. Just write what you know about the student. Since you had him in a course, you can mention his grade and (more helpfully) where he ranked among the students in the course. Did he ask insightful questions? Write especially clear solutions? If not, that's fine -- just say what you know.

Since you have spoken with him at length, you can probably also comment on his personality. Is he easy-going and likeable? Intensely passionate about his ideas? Thoughtful and organized?

If you would be sorry to see him leave your program, say so and explain why.

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