One of the most important parts of your college applications isn’t even written by you, and that’s the letter of recommendation. Most private colleges want one counselor and one or two teacher recommendations. Juniors, now is a good time to start asking for those letters of recommendation, when you are still fresh in your teacher’s mind. Here are some tips for securing good recommendation letters:
- Choose your recommenders wisely. When it comes to choosing whom to ask, you want someone who knows you well enough to write something special about you. The best recommendations provide insight about you and knowledge of your high school success. You want someone to write about your talents, abilities, and more.Make certain the recommender is someone who likes you. It’s important to ask a teacher whose class is one where you have great attendance, have few or no tardies, are an active participate, are well behaved, and get good grades. Most likely you’ll never see the letter that is written about you, so it needs to be from someone with whom you feel comfortable.
- Ask a teacher from a core subject. Some colleges specify that at least one recommendation letter must be from a teacher in a core subject (math, English, science, history, or foreign language). Some colleges specify that all recommendation letters must be from a teacher in a core subject. If the college does not specify, students should still include at least one from a teacher in a core subject. Furthermore, this teacher should come from either your junior or senior year. For any additional letters of recommendation that may be allowed, keep in mind the subjects or activities about which you are most passionate. If you are the editor of the school newspaper, for example, perhaps your additional recommender could be your journalism teacher who oversees your leadership role.
- Start Early. Do not wait until the last minute to ask for your letters of recommendation. Your recommender needs time to write a thoughtful and articulate letter. The more time you give your recommender, ideally the more time he or she will have to write something reflective and complete.
- Make an appointment to speak with your recommenders. Although you can simply assign a recommender on the Common Application, Coalition Application, or via software like Naviance (if your school uses it), it’s ideal to schedule an appointment with your recommender. Teachers and school counselors usually have a full schedule. Making an appointment shows that you respect that person’s time.
- Help your recommender. At your meeting, make sure you give your recommenders everything they might need to write your letter and submit it on time. You gain extra points for yourself because your letter will, more likely, be properly detailed. Plus, you gain extra points with recommenders for showing them that you are taking this process seriously and that you appreciate their time and effort.
Some information to provide includes:
a. Logistical information: Provide your recommender with a deadline. If a college does not have a required letter of recommendation in on time, your application will be incomplete. Usually recommendation letters can be uploaded through the Common Application or Coalition Application, but make sure your recommender knows how it should be received.
b. Personal information: Provide your recommender with your legal full name, address, email, and phone number. Also include detailed examples of any accomplishments/improvements in a particular teacher’s subject or class. Be careful about sending your recommender your resume. You want that person to write about you as a student in a particular class. You don’t want your recommender to simply list your activities. But if your recommender asks for a resume, make sure you have one ready! And it’s also a good idea to have an updated resume on hand to provide if your high school counselor does not know you well.
- Follow Up. Remember, your recommenders are doing you a favor. Show your appreciation by sending a thank-you note.
If you have questions on securing Letters of Recommendation and are a client of International College Counselors, give your college advisor a call at 954-414-9986.