Dos & Don’ts of Your College Recommendation Letter

Dos & Don'ts of Your College Recommendation Letter

Most colleges require anywhere three to only one college recommendation letter. It’s important to know who and when to ask, and how to follow up to ensure these letters are completed on time. In this article, we’ll explain what do to (and what NOT to do) in 4 easy steps.

1.   Who To Ask

When considering who to ask for a letter of recommendation, it is important to think about the people who know you best and can speak positively about your character and academic abilities. Consider teachers, coaches, employers, mentors, or other adults who have seen you in action and can provide an honest assessment of your strengths.

If you’re going to ask a teacher, it’s best to choose one from your core classes like English or Math, and only those from your junior or senior years of high school. Your guidance counselor is an excellent option as well. They’ll know more about your academic capacity than your Physical Education teacher or photography instructor. The only real deviation from this would be if you have an instructor who teaches in the area that you’ll be studying in college. For example, if you’re going to be a History major, get a recommendation from your history teacher.

2.   When to Ask

It is important to give the person you’re asking plenty of time to write your recommendation letter. Aim for at least two months before your application deadline. This allows them enough time to craft a thoughtful letter that will aptly describe you and your ability.

Check in with them occasionally to see how things are coming along with their recommendation letter. You don’t want this letter to fall off their radar. You can’t afford to miss a deadline when it comes to your college application process!

3.   What Information to Provide

When asking someone for a letter of recommendation, provide them with information about yourself. This may include your resume, transcripts, list of extracurricular activities, awards or honors received. Give them any other relevant information that will help them write a strong letter on your behalf.

Provide whomever agrees to write you a recommendation letter all the instructions they’ll need, like where to send the letter when it’s complete. Have a conversation with them and let them know what you’re planning to study and why. If appropriate, include a copy of a project you completed in their class to remind them of your work. All these pieces make it easier for them to write the letter, and ensures you’ll have one that’s delivered on time, the right length, and focused on the right thing.

4.   How to Follow Up

Once you have asked someone for a letter of recommendation, follow up with them periodically. This helps you answer any questions they may have and gently reminds them that this letter is important to you. You probably won’t see this recommendation letter — it goes directly to your school of choice. Don’t ask to read it! And don’t forget to thank them for their time and effort in writing the letter once it has been submitted.

When you follow these 4 steps, you’ll have a strong college recommendation letter that will catch the eye of almost any admissions office.