As a teacher, you will find yourself having to write letters of recommendation for your students as they apply to college. These letters are a supplement to the transcripts and test scores the students submit to the admissions office. Use these letters to highlight personal attributes and intangibles that may not show up explicitly without you bringing them to light.
Consider your student's leadership qualities and expand on them in the letter of recommendation. Take into account how the student works in groups and the role that he plays within those groups. Does the student speak up when there are problems? Does the student point out flaws in a constructive way? Consider how the student handles herself in class discussions and think about what unique qualities are brought to the table via his contributions.
Although initiative and leadership are often linked, it is important to also cover self-motivation and drive in a letter of recommendation. Consider the student's extra-curricular activities. Has she started a club or is she pursuing an extra-curricular activity that is unconventional. Students who pursue activities, such as competitive cycling or private piano lessons, often do so outside of traditional school confines, but it is important to note such activities, which show initiative, determination and passion.
While good grades and test scores reflect sound critical thinking skills, a well-thought-out letter of recommendation can highlight the exact critical thinking skills a particular student possesses. Is the student adept at breaking down a task into smaller parts and approaching it in a methodical way? Also consider how the student deals with class discussions and if he is able to properly approach complex issues from a pragmatic perspective; such an ability not only shows sound reasoning skills but also a level of maturity that can lead to college success.
Consider all of the student's accolades, achievements and personal qualities and evaluate her chance at success in college and in the real world. This is a great way to illuminate any personal obstacles that the student may have faced and overcome. It can also be a way of showing that sometimes the whole can be more than the sum of its parts. This also can be a means of explaining a student's mediocrity in some areas and how that is not reflective of his true skills, which may currently be unrealized.