Do you know who is writing your college letters of recommendation? Most colleges require a minimum of two letters of recommendation from your teachers and one from your guidance counselor. Check school websites for their specific requirements. You may want to include a letter an additional letter if you’ve made a significant commitment to programs such as science research or athletics. Recommendation letters tell admissions reps about you and what you’re likely to bring to their classrooms and campus. Here are some helpful tips to consider when requesting your recommendations:
- Make your request for recommendations in person, and do it now.
- Offer your recommenders a copy of your resume to give them a more complete picture of who you are so they can write the most effective letter possible.
- Letters from your guidance counselor will help admissions officers understand more about your school and your standing within your school community. This helps to define your achievements relative to your peers’. 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. If you have any special circumstances (health, family, finances) that you’d like them to explain in their letter, let them know at this time. Talk to them about hopes and dreams for college and give them as much background information as possible so they can write a strong letter in support of your applications.
- Most colleges require that your letters be written by instructors you had in junior or senior year. If possible, ask primary subject teachers. Also, remember, a recommendation will be more valuable if written by a teacher who likes you.
- 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 recommendation letters offer admissions reps a chance to get to know you— they’ll get a look at your learning style, past academic growth and future potential. Recommendations are an important component of your application because they let colleges see beyond your grades and test scores.