Getting Letters of Recommendation for the College Application

Even though test scores, grades, extracurricular activities, and the personal statement can say a lot about who you are, many colleges rely on the letters of recommendation to determine whether or not you will be accepted. Recommendations let admissions officers know what other people think about you as a student and member of the community, giving them an additional glance into who you are as a person and aiding them in their decision of whether or not you will be accepted. The right recommendation can help you get into the college you want.

Who should you ask for a letter of recommendation?

  • Teachers-Not your favorite teachers, but the teachers who you know you best and you know will write a strong recommendation about you.
  • Supervisors or Employers-They may not know about how you are in school, but they can present admissions officers with a vivid image of your work ethic and how you perform in a professional environment.
  • DO NOT ask family members or friends to write you a letter of recommendation. Although they may know you best, they will definitely be biased and are not credible sources in the eyes of college admissions officers.

How should you ask for a letter of recommendation?

  • Make sure you are polite when asking a teacher or supervisor for a recommendation. Remember, they are doing you a favor.
  • Ask them at the end of the day or make an appointment with them. This will allow for them to ask you some questions about why you need the recommendation, what some of your goals are, and why you asked them to write the letter. By having this conversation, your teacher or supervisor can write a stellar recommendation that will stand out to college admissions officers who are drowning in a sea of applications.

When should you ask for a letter of recommendation?

  • Ask for a letter of recommendation at least a month in advance to the due date. This will give the recommender an ample amount of time to complete your and other people’s letters of recommendation.
  • As the deadline approaches, check back with the recommender to make sure they haven’t forgotten about you.

What should be in the letter of recommendation?

  • Your goals
  • What motivates you
  • How involved you are in classroom discussions
  • What distinguishes you from your peers
  • A laundry list of traits specific to who you are
  • Your achievements
  • Things about your personality and stories to quantify them

What if I ask someone to write me a letter of recommendation and they say no?

  • Don’t stress. Understand that they are saying no for a valid reason (maybe they don’t have the time or feel they don’t know you that well).
  • Don’t be persistent in asking them if they say no; just go ask someone else.

Now that you know all about letters of recommendation, start asking!

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