Who knows how many recommendation letters college admissions reps read every day? You can imagine how easy it is for your letter to blend in. To give yourself the best chance of acceptance into the college of your choice, you want your letters of recommendation to stand out.
Follow these tips to get letters of recommendation that will “wow” college admissions officers.
1. Know the requirements
First things first: make sure you check with each college’s admissions guidelines to ensure you are submitting eligible recommendation letters. You may need two from a teacher, one from a friend, one from an employer, etc.
2. Plan ahead
It’s never too early to start thinking about getting your recommendation letters in place. As soon as you know what colleges you’re going to apply to, you may as well make your requests. Usually a phone call or email will suffice. If you’re asking a school guidance counselor, you may need to make an appointment to speak with him or her in person, so keep that in mind.
The general rule is to ask for these letters no less than a month before your admissions materials are due. But here’s one better: Ask for them over the summer. That’s the time of year when teachers and education professionals have more time to devote to such tasks, so take advantage of it!
3. Don’t pick just anyone
Think of all the teachers you’ve had in high school. Is there one in particular who inspires you? Is there a teacher with whom you’ve chatted well after the bell rang, or whose classes you always looked forward to and put in the extra effort for?
That’s who you should ask to write you a college recommendation letter.
It may seem like an awkward thing to ask for. What if the teacher says no? Well, chances are they won’t, and teachers are used to getting this request throughout the school year. And it doesn’t even have to be a teacher. It could be a counselor, coach, or after-school activity adviser.
Make sure you choose a teacher or mentor who knows you well. If they really know you, they can write something more genuine that will catch the attention of an admissions representative. If you choose someone you’ve interacted with just a few times, there is a chance they won’t have much to say in their letter.
4. Plant a seed
When you contact a teacher or mentor to supply you with a recommendation letter, it’s a good idea to include reminders that demonstrate your work ethic, talent, or character.
Was there a particular project you performed really well on in class? What about volunteer field trips, or activities your class participated in where you made a real effort? Think about those things, and include them in your message to the teacher to help them write a better letter.
Gathering college recommendation letters is just one step in the admissions process. So what’s next? Download our College Decision Timeline guide and checklist!