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 complement your college applications, showcasing your character, skills, and abilities. Typically, most colleges will require two letters from teachers and 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 mentored you in a particular subject area or even a teacher who helped you get through a difficult course. Any instructor who has witnessed you excelling or working hard to overcome academic challenges 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, multiple seniors ask teachers to write recommendation letters. To avoid “competing” with other students’ requests, reaching out to recommenders at the end of junior year rather than waiting until fall of senior year is best. This will allow you to pass along your resume and share your goals and achievements with them. 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. They must be aware of your college’s 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.


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