4 Steps to Great Letters of Recommendation

Posted in Applications | 0 comments

4 Steps to Great Letters of Recommendation

Colleges ask for letters of recommendation because they value the information a well-written recommendation letter says about a prospective student. Letters reveal things about you, that static grades and test scores cannot. They provide context and personal opinions from a professional, who can reveal positive aspects of your character. Here are 4 steps to getting a great recommendation letter.

Step 1: Know what you need.

  • The University of California, California State Universities and many other large public institutions do not accept recommendation letters.
  • For schools that do, plan on a minimum of two letters from teachers, and one from your high school counselor.  There are a few schools that might require three.
  • Sometimes letters are optional. Our suggestion is to submit one if you have a strong relationship with a teacher.

Step 2: Who should you ask and when?

  • Don’t automatically pick the teacher in the class you have an A in. Some of the best letters come from teachers you had to ask for help.
  • Think about your areas of interest. For example, if you are planning to major in a STEM field, at least one teacher should be from that discipline.
  • For most students, having a balance of one math or science, and one English, history or foreign language teacher is a good idea.
  • Consider asking teachers you’ve had more than once—a freshman and junior foreign language teacher can speak to your development as a student and a young adult.
  • If you’re an arts student, ask your band, choral or theater teacher for those schools that allow non-academic, optional recommendation letters. If you have a job or are an athlete, including your boss or coach is also appropriate. Remember these people are in addition to, not a replacement for, the required recommendations.
  • Ask your teachers politely, in person and in late spring (May) of junior year or fall(August/September) of senior year .

Step 3: Follow your school’s protocol.

If your school uses Naviance, check under the “About Me” tab to see if there is a specific survey that needs to be filled out by you and possibly, your parent/guardian.

If your school does not have a packet or questionnaire of their own, it’s your job to give your teachers enough information so they are able to write you a good letter. We suggest providing them with a note that includes one or more of the following:

  • Why you selected this particular teacher;
  • Highlights of your class achievements, or areas you worked to improve;
  • A description of a meaningful experience in the course, and how it impacted your work;
  • What you plan to study or your interest areas; and anything else they should know about you. Be sure to include an expression of thanks!
  • When you ask the teachers, be prepared to give them a copy of your note or questionnaire, and a résumé or extra-curricular activities list so they get an idea of all that you do outside of the classroom.
  • Provide them with the application deadlines for the schools to which you are applying.

Step 4

  • Thank them, thank them, and thank them again for the work they’re doing on your behalf.
Authored by The College Crew©
Simply College Prep is a member of the College Crew, a collaborative of independent college consultants dedicated to providing a superior level of student support throughout the college admission process. We subscribe to the standards of good practices in the national and regional professional organizations to which we belong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *