Seniors, this is the time to request recommendation letters from your teachers for your applications. Most colleges require a minimum of two letters of recommendation from your teachers and one from your guidance counselor— check school websites for specific requirements. Also, if you’ve been seriously involved in programs such as science research or athletics, you may want to include a letter from that program director as well. These letters help admissions reps to get a better understanding of who you are and what you’ll bring to their classrooms and campus. The following are helpful tips to help you secure these recommendations:
- Help your recommenders compose the most effective letters possible. Offer them a copy of your resume to give them a more complete picture of who you are.
- Guidance counselor letters provide insight into who you are outside the classroom and put your achievements into perspective relative to your peers. This letter helps admissions officers understand more about your school and your standing within this school community. If you come from a big school and don’t know your counselor, set up a meeting to give your counselor the chance to get to know you. Also, at this time let them know about any special circumstances that you’d like them to explain in their letter. Share your goals for college and provide them with appropriate background information so they can write a strong letter in support of your applications.
- Ask teachers who know you and like you. Many colleges require that your letters be written by instructors you had in junior or senior year, so ask teachers who have taught you recently. Make your requests now in order to give your teachers enough time to write for you. They will, most likely, be writing for many of your classmates as well. Stop by and ask in person, not by email or voicemail.
- Provide your teachers with information that will help them write the most effective letter. Give them an outline of the highlights of your time spent in their classroom, your favorite assignments and samples of your work. Also, let them know what you enjoy(ed) most about their class. Share any experiences outside the classroom that are relevant to their subject matter. Help them write a letter that ties together all your related experiences.
- Give each recommender a list of your schools and the application deadlines. Provide each writer with a recommendation form for each college along with a stamped, addressed envelope, if your high school mails in the forms. If your school participates in an online program such as Naviance, your writers will submit their recommendations electronically.
- Make a list of the schools you are applying to and keep track of your recommendations. Jot down the date you gave your teachers the forms and check online or with the colleges as the process progresses to confirm receipt of the letters.
- After the letters have been completed, it’s nice to show your appreciation by writing each of your recommenders a note thanking them for their support.
Good letters offer admissions reps a chance to get to know about your learning style, academic growth and future potential. Recommendations are an important component of your application because they let colleges see beyond your grades and test scores.