How to Get the Best Letters of Recommendation

The Early Action/Early Decision deadline is coming up, so it is time to start getting your letters of recommendation if you haven't already! This blog will clearly navigate you through the steps of how to get the best letters of recommendation for college.

You may have spent countless hours achieving a high GPA and standardized test scores like SAT and/or ACT scores, while participating in extracurricular activities, and gearing up to write a stellar personal statement. So you may wonder, what are rec letters for? While the admissions committee does learn a lot about you from the rest of your application, recommendation letters provide them with something they don’t yet have: an adult’s opinion of who you are as a student or person. They reveal character traits and your uniqueness that test scores and a resume cannot. They also demonstrate that you have adult professionals who are willing to vouch for your

So, how significant are letters of recommendation? They can be the difference between acceptance and rejection, which should give you an indication of how important they are. You might’ve heard of students with a perfect transcript and great extracurriculars who didn’t get into their dream school. Those cases often come down to submitting mediocre college essays and/or rec letters. Admissions committees want to view you as a person; if they can’t picture you adding value to their campus, you might be rejected.

So who should you ask for your letters of recommendation? Firstly, follow the rules of the universities you are applying to. If the university requests a letter from an academic teacher, you should send a letter from an academic teacher. If the school asks for two academic teachers and a third open option, you should send recommendation letters from two academic teachers and a third from someone who has supervised your extracurricular activities or an employer who has observed your diligence, initiative, and impact.

Secondly, choose someone with whom you have bonded with, and knows you, rather than choosing someone who might be famous at your school. You will only benefit if the recommender can write a persuasive and detailed letter about you. If a teacher only knows your face and final grade in the course, the letter will likely be underwhelming and generic. Because LORs are more about your character, it is best to choose teachers who know you.

Thirdly, think outside the box, if your college has an open-ended option for whom to ask for letters, try to think of someone who may be outside of school. If you have a coach, mentor, or employer who has known you for a long time and can speak on your behalf, they may be a suitable candidate. In addition, instructors who know you through an extracurricular activity (as opposed to an academic course) can often provide a unique perspective that may not come up inside the classroom.

Lastly, stay current. It is best to choose recommenders from your current school year or a year prior, unless you’ve maintained a great relationship with a teacher from an earlier grade level. Here is an example with the response you should take to demonstrate what this means. 1) A teacher who knew your child freshman year and has not interacted with them since? Pass. 2) A teacher who met your child freshman year and has mentored them since? Compelling choice; go for it, perhaps!

Well, how should you ask and follow up about your letters of recommendation? To begin, ask in person so that you appear more invested and mature. You can start by sending an email, but a face-to-face meeting is always preferable. Second, make sure your LORs are of excellent quality. If you are unsure whether or not an adult will write a compelling recommendation, you should ask the recommender if they would feel comfortable providing a “strong letter of recommendation.” If a teacher seems hesitant, you should simply thank them and move on to the next. If you are pretty certain that an adult will not write a positive recommendation, don’t ask them :). Thirdly, you should offer to provide your recommenders with application materials or a short list of notable accomplishments so that they have a sense of what to say as well. Also, make sure to follow up with your recommenders. If they have forgotten, remind them about 2 weeks to a month prior to submitting your college applications as a reminder or to express gratitude and ensure their letters have been (or are about to be) sent. Once your letters have been sent, don’t forget to send them a thank you note for helping you out! A note, although you would like to see what is written on your LORs, many schools don’t let students look at it and keep it confidential. Even if it isn’t, you should waive the right of looking at your LORs, because schools will not trust the letters, as they’ll assume teachers are less honest with their commentary when they know their letter will be reviewed by the student.

These are the main ideas about the process of getting the best rec letters to apply to college/university. Keep these ideas in mind as you move towards getting your LORs and applying to colleges. Hope this blog was helpful! Good luck with your applications, and we hope for the best for you!


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