How to Procure the Best College Recommendation Letters

Keep these important aspects in mind when going through the process of obtaining a college recommendation letter.

Elizabeth Hoyt

August 08, 2016

How to Procure the Best College Recommendation Letters

One of the most important aspects of your college application isn’t something you write: the recommendation letter. Since your recommendation letter is technically in someone else’s hands, there are some aspects you should be aware of, like finding the right person to write it and how to help them provide you with a great letter.

It’s important to request these letters sooner than later, before your teachers and coaches are swamped with requests from students applying to college. Doing so early ensures that your letter will be prioritized, rather than becoming another one in their pile of to-dos.

Here are some important aspects to be aware of when going through the process of obtaining your college recommendation letters:

1. Start by organizing your information.

This includes listing out the application deadlines for all of the colleges to which you’re applying that you’d like recommendation letters for. That way, you’ll be able to provide a timeline when requesting letters. It’s always a good idea, though, to ask as early as possible so that the person writing your letter isn’t doing so on a time crunch.

You’ll also want to list out any important application or letter requirements for each school. This is important because some colleges specify the number of required recommendation letters (if more than one) or may require specific recommendation letters from teachers within a specific subject or a letter from a counselor, specifically. Ensure you know the requirements for each application before approaching anyone about writing a letter.

2. Decide who to ask.
Create a list of potential adults who may be a good source for a recommendation letter. This includes teachers, coaches, counselors and any other adult who knows you well enough to write a positive, insightful letter on your behalf.

While your family members and peers would likely write glowing recommendations, nix asking them. Their options of you aren’t as credible because they have too much bias because of your relationships, so colleges won’t take them seriously.

3. The earlier you ask, the better the letter.
It’s vital to give anyone you’re requesting a recommendation letter from plenty of time to think about what they’d like to write and then actually write the letter. That’s why it’s important to request your letters as early on as possible, before the college admissions season rush begins. Try to ask them as far in advance of an application deadline as possible to ensure your recommendation letter gets prepared in a timely manner.

Also, if you ask too late, many teachers will have to decline your request. You want to give yourself enough time to make additional requests, if necessary.

Plus, the earlier you begin, the more letters you’ll be able to obtain, which only makes you look better as an applicant.

4. Provide them with all of the necessary information.
Along with your student resume or brag sheet, include any pertinent information they may need to include within the letter or should be aware of when writing your recommendation letter. These items aren’t required, but are helpful to the writer and providing them can enhance the quality of your recommendation.

Try to include the following:

• Any deadlines they should know
• Your full name and contact information (address, email and telephone number)
• Your student resume or “brag sheet
• Any forms to fill out required by each college you’re applying to (if applicable)
• Pertinent information about the school you’re applying to (For example, if you’re applying to a certain program, it’s important they highlight your student accomplishments that speak to that.)
• A copy of your college essay and application
• The name/address of each college or university
• Addressed envelopes with stamps (if they’re sending the letters directly to the colleges)

5. Give them more to write about.
While anyone you request a recommendation letter likely knows you and your positive qualities, it’s also helpful to provide them with additional information for reference. You may want to give them a copy of your student resume or “brag sheet,” so they’re easily able to refer back to your accomplishments. This allows the person writing the letter to, not only list your qualities, but also to provide tangible examples of how you exhibit those qualities.

For example, a teacher may know that you excel in science, but may not know offhand that you are in the science club and have received numerous science awards. Providing them with this information allows them to reference your accomplishments in tandem with your qualities, which makes for a much more thorough recommendation letter.

All of these aspects make writing a letter about you much simpler and, in most cases, better recommendation letters will result. Plus, the person writing your recommendation letter is doing you a favor, so you want to make the process as easy on them as you possibly can. They’ll appreciate the added effort and will likely put more thought into creating the perfect recommendation as a result.

6. Send a thank-you note.
Again, writing a college recommendation letter isn’t something your teachers, coaches, counselors or whomever else are required to do. They’re doing it simply to help you with your chances of gaining admission into college and that’s a kind gesture. Show them you appreciate their hard work, time and effort with a hand-written thank you note. They’ll appreciate it more than you know!

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