How to Get a Great Letter of Recommendation

by | Apr 15, 2023

Some colleges will ask for two or three letters of recommendation during the application process. These letters should be written by someone who can describe your skills, accomplishments, and personality.
Why do colleges ask for recommendations? Colleges value recommendations because they:

  • Show your talents beyond test scores and grades.
  • Describe real-life examples of your personality and character.
  • Discuss your relationships in the academic community.

A recommendation letter can help your application stand out, especially when it highlights your skills, accomplishments, and positive attitude toward education.When Should I Ask for a Recommendation Letter?Teachers need as much time as possible to complete a recommendation letter. They often have many recommendation letters to write, along with lesson planning and grading.You should try to get your request to them as soon as possible, but give your references at least a month to complete and submit your letters. The start of your senior year is a good time to begin asking teachers for recommendation letters, especially if you’re applying for early decision. Remember, the more time your teacher has, the more likely they’ll write you a thoughtful, detailed letter.Who Should I Ask to Write a Letter of Recommendation?It’s up to you to find people to write academic letters of recommendation. These tips can help you through the process:

  • Read each of your college applications carefully. Schools often ask for letters of rec from a specific person, such as a core subject teacher, specific subject teacher, or school counselor.
  • Get advice from teachers, counselors, and family members on who would be best to write your recommendation letters.
  • Be sure to select a current teacher or one from your junior year, preferably one who knows you well. Don’t choose teachers you had several years ago, since colleges want to know who you are and what you are like now.
  • Teachers who know you outside of the classroom are a good choice. Consider a teacher who led a club you were in.
  • If requested by the college, you can also think about other adults who know you well. A coach, employer, or club adviser can say a lot about your skills and character. Ask your admissions officer if it okay to submit recommendations beyond what is required by the college.
  • Above all else, choose someone who will be enthusiastic about writing your letter.
  • If you’re unsure about asking someone in particular, politely ask if he or she feels comfortable recommending you. That’s a good way to avoid letters that sound weak or forced.

How to Be Sure You Get a Glowing Letter of RecommendationSome teachers write many recommendation letters each year. While teachers don’t intend to, their letters can start to seem generic after a while. Make it easy for them to give positive, detailed information about your achievements and your potential by refreshing their memory so that they can share specific details about your school career.It can also be helpful to provide your teacher with a resume or “brag sheet.” Something you might want to include on your brag sheet or in your discussion with your teacher include:

  • Your class participation
  • Some of your best work/projects
  • What you learned in their class
  • Anything they need to discuss for specific work examples

If you need to get a college letter of recommendation from a counselor, be sure to do the following:

  • Make an appointment to meet with your counselor if that’s an option, or follow your school’s specific process for receiving a counselor recommendation.
  • Discuss your skills, accomplishments, and hobbies. Also, talk about what you want to do in college and beyond.
  • If you have low grades or any other issues on your transcript, talk to your counselor about what happened and what you’ve done to improve.

It’s also a good idea to follow up with your teacher or counselor to see if they have any questions on what is listed on the brag sheet or need more information. And don’t forget to say, “Thank you!”Final Recommendation TipsBefore asking for a letter of recommendation, remember these tips:

  • Waive your right to view recommendation letters on your application forms. Admission officers will trust them more if you haven’t seen them.
  • Requests for recommendations are often sent via email. Make sure that they have the correct email address of the recommender.
  • Let teachers know the deadline for each college and ask them about their preferred turnaround time.
  • You can keep track of your letter of recommendation submissions in your application portal. You can politely follow up with your teacher if the deadline is approaching but you see your letter has not been submitted yet.
  • Once your letters are complete, write a thank-you note to your references. Once you decide which college to attend, you can also tell your references where you’re going and let them know how much you appreciate their support.
Weil College Advising

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