How to Get Great Letters of Recommendation

shutterstock_125894825One of the important parts of a college application is the letters of recommendation oftentimes required by many colleges. Letters of recommendation are important because they reveal traits about you that grades and test scores cannot. Also, they provide personal opinions of your character and show who is willing to speak on your behalf. 

Letters of recommendation can carry serious weight in the admissions process and therefore, should not be taken lightly. To get the best letters of recommendation, below are some important areas to consider when choosing individuals to write a letter on your behalf:

1) Most colleges will ask for letters from an academic teacher. Therefore, ask a teacher from junior year or a current teacher who has known you for a while. It’s not wise to ask a teacher from several years ago who may not fully remember your class participation and academic achievements. 

2) Ask a teacher who knows you outside of the classroom. For example, a teacher who may have helped coach you in a sport, directed you in a play, or was an advisor in a club you were involved in. These teachers will generally have a good understanding of your personality, accomplishments, and skills, and therefore, can add more depth and meaning when writing a letter describing who you are. 

3) Pick an individual who you feel will be enthusiastic about writing a letter of recommendation on your behalf. Choose teachers who can highlight you in unique, interesting, and compelling ways. If you have any doubt about whether a teacher will write a solid letter on your behalf, just ask the teacher about his/her comfort level in recommending you. This is a good way to avoid marginal or weak letters.

4) Consider which courses or activities you stood out in, led in some way, showed dedication, curiosity, intellectual promise, and really contributed in a meaningful and substantial way. These are the courses or activities in which you should consider asking for letters of recommendation.

5) Understand that teachers sometimes write many letters of recommendation each year. It’s therefore important that you set aside time to speak to those teachers you ask—even if you know them well. You want to make it as easy as possible for teachers to write a solid letter on your behalf by reviewing with them your accomplishments, level of commitment, depth of involvement, and overall potential. Don’t assume teachers will remember all of your commendable qualities—it’s up to you to highlight these qualities during your meeting.

6) Give your teachers at least one month before your earliest deadline to complete your letters of recommendation. Don’t wait until the last minute! Remember teachers can be very busy with a lot of commitments and giving them enough time to write a letter is important to ensure they will be able to write a quality letter. 

Letters of recommendation are a key factor in the college admissions process. Take this part of the admission process seriously and take proactive steps to ensure that you will be highlighted and supported in the best possible way when asking individuals to recommend you for college admissions.

Dr. Jeff & Dr. Brian Haig
The Experts in College Planning and Student Success