Letters of Recommendation for College Applications

Ask teachers, counselor, and mentors for letters of recommendation for college.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

February 28, 2022

Letters of Recommendation for College Applications
Get the best letters of recommendation you can to make a winning impression.
One of the most important parts of your college application isn't written by you: the letter of recommendation. But that doesn't mean you're off the hook. It’s up to the student to organize the letter of recommendation process, from asking in a timely manner to providing clear instructions and deadlines. Get the best recommendation you can to make a winning impression.

Get Organized Before Asking for Letters of Recommendation

Organization is the key to making sure your recommendations get where they need to go on time. Make a chart of your prospective schools and their application requirements: • Application deadlines • Application requirements (application form, transcripts, test scores, essays, etc.). • Specifics about your letters of recommendation (including who is writing them and deadlines). Check off parts of the application once you have completed them. The chart will help you keep track of the application process.

Who Should Write a Letter of Recommendation for You?

Choose adults who know you well. Teachers can comment about your academic skills. But also consider other people who can write about your talents and abilities, like coaches, employers, and community and church leaders. Teachers, community leaders and peers have an interesting insight into who the student really is. Their letters of recommendation provide a glimpse of them both in and out of the classroom that a college application can’t possibly capture. As you prepare, you need to consider how many letters of recommendation for college you need. Some schools require more than one letter of recommendation from counselors or teachers in particular subjects. Carefully read the instructions on the application before choosing someone to write the recommendation.
Don't ask family members to write your letters; their comments won't be as credible to an admissions counselor. This includes aunts, uncles, and more distant relatives.

Timing is Everything

Give your recommenders enough time to write thoughtful and articulate letters. It doesn’t hurt to ask them at the end of the junior year, giving them the summer break to either write your letter or think on what they would write. With many Early Admission deadlines occurring as early as October, it’s important to get requests in sooner, rather than later. If you still need time to come up with a list of recommenders, do so over the summer and then ask teachers, counselors, coaches, and community leaders for their recommendation in August. You may require a letter of recommendation for scholarship applications as well. Keep your list of recommenders handy – or ask if you can use their recommendation for other applications. It’s ok to print multiple copies of the same recommendation letter, as long as it’s a general letter and meets all application requirements.

Provide Additional Information for Your Recommenders

Your recommender can probably comment on your positive qualities and merits, but the most persuasive letters give specific information about your strengths and weaknesses. The best letters of recommendation provide a look at who the student is and discuss why they would be a great fit for that particular school. With that, students should provide their resume as well as information on the school they’re applying to when asking for a recommendation. Make sure your recommenders have everything they need to write your letter and submit it on time. That includes: • Deadline information. • Your full name, address, email and phone number. • Two copies of any forms they need to fill out (for a rough draft and a final draft). • The name and address of the college or university, and a copy of your completed essay and application. Provide a stamped addressed envelope for their convenience. • Information about the school (a brochure or viewbook). • A copy of your college application resume or a list of activities and achievements. Remember, your recommenders are doing you a favor. Show your appreciation by sending a thank-you note. This isn’t just a bonus task; it’s a must-do as part of the process. While procuring letters of recommendation for college may seem like a hassle, it’s great practice for the years ahead. As you embark on the job search, you’ll find you need references for just about every job. By putting in the practice now with your college application, you’ll know how to prepare for that scenario during the job search. Just like those who write your letters of recommendation, references need to be individuals who are not related to – and who can speak about who you are as a person, student, and employee. Establish good, working relationships with your co-workers and managers so that when the time comes, they can provide a good reference. And if you have a job in high school, these people could write a great letter of recommendation for college too. By being prepared and organized, you'll make it easy for your recommenders to write an outstanding letter of recommendation!

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