Letters of Recommendation

Most college applications request two or three recommendation letters from people who know you in and out of the classroom.  Here are some helpful tips from the College Board:

  • Don't be shy. Teachers and counselors are usually happy to help you as long as you respect their time constraints.
  • Provide teachers and counselors with deadlines for each recommendation that you are requesting, especially noting the earliest deadline.
  • On the application form, waive your right to view recommendation letters. This gives more credibility to the recommendation in the eyes of the college.
  • Typically, you know your teachers well enough to know who can provide a favorable review of your accomplishments. If in doubt, don't hesitate to ask if they feel comfortable writing a recommendation. In some cases, you may have no choice as to who to use, but when you do, make the best choice possible.
  • Make sure to give your recommendation writers plenty of time - at least one month before letters are due - to complete and send your recommendations, but as with anything, the earlier the better.
  • Follow up with your recommendation writers a week or so prior to your first deadline, to ensure recommendations have been mailed or to see if they need additional information from you.
  • Once you have decided which college to attend, write thank-you notes to everyone who provided a recommendation and tell them where you've decided to go to college. Be sure to do this before you leave high school.
  • Spend time talking with your counselors and ensure they know about your plans, accomplishments, and involvements. You may want to provide them with a brief resume of your activities and goals; a resume can provide the best overview of your high school involvement and contributions. Also, if there is some aspect of your transcript that needs explaining—perhaps low grades sophomore year—it's helpful to talk with your counselors to explain "why" and "how" you've changed and improved.