A good letter of recommendation can make or break your college application. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. College admissions reviewers are interested in what you have to say about yourself but are even more interested in what others have to say about you. That’s where the letter of recommendation comes into play. When a counselor, advisor, teacher or coach is willing to put their name out there for recommending you, that’s when you know you have a credible application.
Many college applications require a letter of recommendation, so as soon as you note this requirement, start seeking out a person to be your letter writer. Procrastinating will only place unneeded pressure on yourself and create limiting time constraints on your letter writer. Be courteous and give him or her plenty of time to write.
How to Choose a Letter Writer
This can be the toughest part of the process, really. You may have several teachers that could write you a competent letter, but which one is the best choice? Likewise, which teachers knows you the best, write the best and can write the most glowing review of you?
Answering these questions can help you select an individual that will draft a letter that could potentially push your application over the edge into the “accepted” pile. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your favorite teacher may not always be the best choice. Even though he or she knows you well, perhaps they are not as well-versed as some other instructors. Or, perhaps they already have a lot of commitments and won’t be able to spend the time on your letter necessary to make it truly great.
When asking people to write a letter of recommendation for you, always ask if they are sure they will be able to submit the letter by deadline. Now, you can ask this question without sounding pompous. Say something like, “Are you sure you’re not too busy?” This show that you care about the teacher’s schedule and what your letter will do to it.
Common Aspects of a Letter of Recommendation
A letter of recommendation does not need to be a lengthy or complex document. Rather, it just needs to show the admissions reviewers that the student has been honest on their application and that an authority figure is willing to attest their name to these accomplishments. A letter of recommendation should never be longer than a page and should include first and foremost information about how the student and letter writer know one another. What is your relationship?
Second, the letter writer will need to include information about the student’s accomplishments and abilities. So, if a former teacher of this student is writing the letter, he could talk about how he saw this student work diligently in class and achieve certain goals. You get the picture.
Finally, the letter writer should include a statement of some sort about why they are recommending this student. What is it about this student that makes him or her worthy of acceptance at this particular college? Why do they deserve to be accepted?
How to Help the Letter Writer
Now that you know what is to be included in a letter of recommendation, you can work harder to help your letter writer compose a compelling letter. To best help your letter writer, provide them with:
- A copy of the college application.
- A brief summary of why you want to attend this college.
- An accomplishments resume.
By handing over some organized information about yourself, you save the letter writer considerable time and help to make the letter more personal and detailed. The more the letter writer seems to know about you, the better off you will be.