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May 31st, 2018

College Recommendation Letters 101

With so much going on in the college admissions process, it’s easy to forget that acquiring college recommendation letters requires strategic planning. Experts suggest that students give thought and attention to their recommendation letters as early as junior year.

Letters of recommendation serve as a complement to your college applications, showcasing your character, skills and abilities. Typically, most colleges will require two letters from teachers, as well as a letter from your guidance counselor. However, colleges have different requirements, so it’s important to refer to each school’s website or admissions department.

Who to ask?

Start with teachers you have known for a long time and have developed a meaningful relationship with throughout high school. This may be a teacher who has served as a mentor to you in a particular subject area, or even a teacher who helped you get through a difficult course. Any instructor who has witnessed you either excelling or working hard to overcome academic challenges is someone who could be well suited to write a letter on your behalf.

Additionally, many students choose to ask coaches, club advisors or employers for a third letter of recommendation. Letters written by these individuals can speak to your talents outside the classroom and highlight your commitment to extracurricular activities, such as a sport, music program or internship. Employers can write about your work ethic and responsibility.

When to ask?

Each year teachers are asked by multiple seniors to write recommendation letters. To avoid “competing” with other students’ requests, it’s best to reach out to recommenders at the end of junior year, rather than waiting until fall of senior year. This will give you an opportunity to pass along your resume and share with them your goals and achievements. Most importantly, it gives your teachers time over the summer to write your letters – before they receive a flood of requests in the fall!

General tips

After speaking with your recommenders, be sure to provide them with all the information they need to submit their letters. It’s critical that they are aware of your colleges’ deadlines and have access to the forms or links required for submission. Be sure to send hand-written thank you notes after your applications are completed!

Your recommendation letters are a key component of your admissions profile. Planning ahead will help both you and your recommenders manage the process in the best way possible.

Source:
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/your-high-school-record/how-to-get-a-great-letter-of-recommendation

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