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Make Sure You Get the Best College Recommendation Letters

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Make Sure You Get the Best College Recommendation Letters

Recommendation letters. Every student needs them. Almost all teachers dread having to write them, especially if they barely know you. That’s why it’s crucial that you prepare and ask the right people to write your recommendations. The letters are a part of the college application process and they should be taken seriously. No last-minute panicking on this task – it requires some thoughtful planning so that your recommendations will complement your high school resume and college essays.

Letters of recommendation provide critical additional information about your academic performance, your interests and your personal qualities and may sway the admission or financial aid offer.

What class did you do best in last year? Which class was your favorite? Who was your favorite teacher? Does your guidance counselor know you well? Who knows you the best (both adults and fellow students)? Who will write you the best recommendation?

Once you have your answers, make a list of the people who would be your best recommenders. Put some serious thought into who you will ask because these letters are important. Then, follow these steps to secure the best recommendation letters you can:

Start thinking early about who could write you a good letter of recommendation.

Common examples include teachers, your principal, school counselors, employers, community members, church leaders, etc. Schools commonly require teacher recommendation letters. However, sometimes anyone can write one as long as they are not related to you.

Some people will serve as better references than others.

Teachers and mentors who know you well are much better choices than those who are only acquaintances or just know your name. It is important to build relationships with them early in high school to ensure that they will be willing and able to write you a good letter of recommendation.

Provide your recommender with your high school resume and other materials.

Even though you should be choosing people who know you well, it is helpful to remind them of your activities and accomplishments. Teachers love it when students do this. It helps them recall facts about the student and gives them information to add in the letter. This will make it easy for them to talk about your skills and involvement specifically, ensuring a more personal letter for your college application.

Here’s a short list of other things you can give the person who is writing the letter:

        • Copies of your best papers in their class.

        • Copies of your creative writing.

        • Notes about particular contributions you made in class.

        • Your transcript.

Talk to them why college is important to you.

Once they know how you feel about college and why you want to attend a specific university, it will be easier for people writing letters to be specific and make the recommendations more personal.

Give the writer plenty of time and provide them with a deadline.

Waiting until the last minute will get you a form letter that is impersonal and not tailored to your interests and abilities. The deadline should give them plenty of time to write and submit the letter at least a week ahead of the actual due date.

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Written by Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parenting for College blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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