Five Steps to Great Letters of Recommendation for College Apps

Letters of Recommendation are an important part of the College Application process! While grades and test scores are often assessed first and seemingly given more weight, items such as Letters of Recommendation, the High School Resume, and the College Essays, give college admissions teams the full picture of who you are as an individual student and person.

When putting together application materials, it is essential to take the time to plan and prepare to glean Letters of Recommendation that will illustrate your strengths and make you a stand-out applicant!

1. Carefully and intentionally select those you ask to write Letters of Recommendation. Select teachers, coaches or mentors who are articulate written communicators. Ask people who are willing to elaborate, in writing, on specific skills you have demonstrated. It is also important to select individuals who know you from different perspectives. For example, your math teacher may include your mastery of high level calculus, but this will be evident on the included transcript. This same calculus instructor can, and should, include the fact that you tutored Algebra students during study hall.

2. Ask individuals in person if they will write Letters of Recommendation for you. While it is easy to email a teacher or guidance counselor, it is important that you ask each individual in person first. This shows that you have taken the initiative to seek him or her out specifically and ask face-to-face. If the recommender lives far away, or you just can't seem to get in touch, a phone call will suffice, but a personal initial contact will reap a better letter than an email.

3. Follow up with an informational email or letter. After your teachers agree to write letters of recommendation, it is helpful to follow up with an email note or hard copy letter that provides some specific context. The follow-up letter or email should:

  • Be addressed to a specific individual teacher/counselor/recommender.Outline the colleges to which you are applying.

  • Include the deadlines and instructions for mailing or sending each of the letters of recommendation you are asking this person to write.

  • Include a few specific points that you would like for him or her to highlight.

  • State why you asked him/her to write a letter of recommendation.

  • Say thank you!

4. Tell your recommenders why you asked them. A really personal touch to include in the opening or closing of the note is to write why you asked this person to write a letter of recommendation. For example, "I am asking you to write a letter of recommendation for my college applications because I always felt challenged in your literature classes. You pushed me to do more and learn so much about British Literature, even though I really had to work long hours to get through some of the novels."

5. Say Thank-You. It courteous and appropriate to follow up with a thank you note to each person who has written or submitted a letter of recommendation for you. The thank you note may be handwritten or sent in email form. Either format is acceptable as long as the message is sincere.

The college application process has many parts and getting great Letters of Recommendation

is just one piece of the puzzle. Find other great information here to help you on this important process of choosing a college that is the best fit for you!

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