Due to high competition rates in the college admissions process, every piece of application matters. Student's recommendation letters are no exception. They serve as powerful testimonials about the accomplishments of a freshman, demonstrate a candidate's excellence and potential. Whether you're writing it yourself or getting it from your teachers, you should know what makes a letter of recommendation for college admission powerful and what elements it should include.
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Why Recommendation Letters for College Are Important?
Doubt whether to include a recommendation letter to your college admission application? There are a couple of solid reasons to alleviate all your concerns. Admission committees value such letters because they:
- Reveal things about you (your strengths, achievements, ambitions) that grades can’t;
- Provide personal opinions of your personality and traits;
- Demonstrate who can speak on your behalf.
Most students who apply to top colleges have strong records of their academic success in most challenging school programs. So you shouldn’t place a premium on your academic performance and grades only. In this case, your application statement will hardly stand out from the crowd of a bunch of similar entries.
Admissions people are not guided solely by the grade matter when they make complex decisions as to what application to accept. They look further, check who you are as a student in a classroom and what personality you have. That’s where your recommendation letters come to play.
Want to build the most powerful college application with the strongest recommendations? Then you need to approach the task in a responsible way. Keep in mind who, when, and how to ask for a recommendation. In this post, we will cover all these specs and will guide you throughout the process.
Who to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
It’s your job to find people to write recommendation letters for your college admission applications. So plan your efforts and build good relationships with teachers so that they can write letters replete with meaningful, convincing, and distinctive praise for your work and contributions. Follow the below instructions to make it happen:
- Attentively read college application requirements. It sometimes happens that schools request recommendations from any academic teacher; however, there are some cases when a specific school counselor should have a say. You are to stick to the admission specs; otherwise, the efforts of yours and your teacher will be of no value;
- If you do not know who to connect, ask your counselor, teachers, and friends about people to make good references;
- Ask one of your teachers from the junior year or a current counselor who has known you for some time. As a rule, admissions people want to get an “up-to-date” perspective on you;
- Contact a teacher who you have good relationships with and who knows you outside the classroom setting;
- Consider other adults. You shouldn’t necessarily ask a teacher to help you; a school employer, coach, or an adviser from an extracurricular course can produce some outstanding content for you. What’s important here is that the person should have a good understanding of you, your strengths, achievements, and potential.
In case you are still unsure who it’s better to ask for a letter, some extra tips will help you make this challenging decision:
- Ask a person who is willing to write a letter for you;
- You should have a good relationship with the person;
- Ensure he or she feels comfortable recommending you.
Thus, you will avoid weak recommendations and can be sure to submit a winning application.
How to Get a Strong Recommendation Letter?
Make your teachers your advocates supporting your academic goals and ambitions. It is quite easy to do so if you help your recommenders and provide them with some info they may not know:
- Share your dreams and prospective career ambitions;
- Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses;
- Describe past events or interactions from the classes you attend;
- Send assignment samples you have submitted to the teacher;
- Provide a list of colleges that you are going to apply to.
Apart from sending a list of educational establishments you want to enroll in, it is also worth explaining why you have chosen these specific colleges and how teachers should submit their pieces. If the piece is to be sent to a particular email address, made sure to share it with your recommenders.
Besides that, you should always send everyone who has written a letter on your behalf a thank you note and let them know how much you appreciate their effort and time.
When to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?
Give your references no less than one month to send you ready-made writings. The earlier you contact them, the better. Due to heavy workload, many teachers prefer to write recommendations during the summer. Applying a couple of months before the application submission deadline, you will get a more comprehensive and outstanding piece as your teacher doesn’t have to rush.
How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?
Even if people writing a recommendation letter for you know you well, it is still worth talking to them. Make sure they provide positive, detailed info about your achievements and your potential capacity by refreshing their memory. Here are some recommendations to help you with it:
- Remind them of particular tasks or projects you’re proud of;
- Mention any challenges you have successfully overcome;
- Share with them the goals you want to reach in the nearest future;
- Explain your career choice;
- Demonstrate your ambitions and interests that are not necessarily linked to the classroom program;
- Talk about your attainments, hobbies, and plans for college and the future.
This type of writing takes some time. So your references will be happy if you could help them. We recommend that you provide them with a resume that briefly outlines your activities, achievements, goals, and interests.
Investing ample effort and time will help your teachers produce a winning recommendation letter for you. Give them ample time and provide them with detailed information about you. Thus, you can be sure that your application stands out from the crowd and brings you “yes” from the admissions board.
College Recommendation Letter Sample 1
Dear Admissions Committee,
I am pleased to be writing this letter of recommendation on behalf of Karen Leyland, a most promising student and wonderful individual. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching Math to Karen during her junior and senior years here at Kirby Prep School. If it were appropriate for teachers to pick favorites, Karen would definitely be one of my top choices. She has a winning attitude full of drive and perseverance that goes unparalleled. She is always attentive in class and has a knack for engaging the whole class in participation, but the attribute that admire the most about Karen is her unwavering kindness.
Karen has been at the top of her class in her final year of high school and was always amongst the top 5 in previous years. Her ability to understand complex concepts and solve problems quicker than most people is the main reason why she qualified for the National Merit Scholarship Program. This accomplishment was earned by giving her undivided attention in class and doing extra work outside of the classroom. She’s always able to manage her time superbly and willing to lend a hand to other students struggling with their work. While some are destined to develop leadership skills, Karen seems to possess the intrinsic qualities of a born leader and she’s able to accomplish this without an air of arrogance or superiority towards her peers.
Math is Karen’s main academic focus, but she also thrives in the music department. She plays saxophone in the jazz band and has a deep understanding of the connections between music and mathematics. I have heard her play on multiple occasions and it’s obvious she has an amazing mind for music comprehension and composition. I’m also fortunate enough to play music with Karen when we both can spare the time and my favorite part about it is the change in teacher-student dynamic wherein I get to play the role of the student again. It’s refreshing and confirms my belief that teachers learn just as much from their students as students do from teachers.
Any college would be thrilled to accept Karen as she is an outstanding student with so much to offer. Our school was very lucky to have her as a student and I’m sure your faculty will feel the same should she be accepted. Karen embraces constructive criticism and strives to improve in every aspect of her education and beyond. She deserves all the good things that will inevitably come her way in her post-secondary years. I would be glad to answer any further questions you have regarding Karen or Kirby Prep School.
Georgiana Bruce Kirby Prep School
College Recommendation Letter Sample 2
Dear Dean Keaton: or To Whom it May Concern:
It is my pleasure to recommend Jane Doe for admission to [name of program] at [name of university]. I am a fifth-year Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley. I came to know Jane when I was her Graduate Student Instructor for Philosophy 111: Ethical Relativism, taught by Professor John Smith. The course comprised [short description of course]. Jane distinguished herself by submitting an exceptionally well researched and interesting project on ethical practices in ancient Greece. I would rank her in the top 2% of students that I have taught in the past five years in respect of her writing ability and research skills.
Overall, Jane is highly intelligent and has good analytical skills. Her project on ethical practices in ancient Greece demonstrated her ability to come to a detailed understanding of the ethical practices of another, very different, culture, and to analyze the consequences of those practices for contemporary ethical theories. She gave a particularly interesting discussion of the difficult practice of infanticide, and showed both sensitivity and detachment when discussing its ethical consequences. Her overall intelligence is also reflected in her grades for the course, which were by far the best in the class.
Jane has excellent communication skills. Her written work is both clear and concise, as well as interesting to read. She demonstrated her oral articulateness in the discussion sections that were an integral part of the course. Each discussion section focused on a particular ethical dilemma. Students were required to analyze morally problematic situations, and to develop and argue for their own ethical views with regard to the issue in question. Jane was highly proficient in applying the course material in analyzing the problem situations. She always explained her views very concisely and gave supporting arguments that were both clear and persuasive. Jane also demonstrated good teamwork skills in group assignments.
At a personal level, Jane is a well disciplined, industrious student with a pleasant personality. She went well beyond the course requirements in the quantity and quality of her project, putting in a lot of extra research and attending office hours every week. Throughout the course, Jane demonstrated great perseverance and initiative. Not only was she interested in and motivated to learn the material, but she also put great work into assimilating it to her own experience and developing her own ideas about each ethical topic that we discussed.
Jane is unquestionably an exceptional candidate for graduate study in Ethics. Jane’s work in Philosophy 111 suggests that she would greatly benefit from the opportunities for intellectual development provided by a sustained period of graduate study. She has proven herself to have the perseverance, initiative, and intellectual creativity necessary to complete an advanced graduate degree. I would therefore highly recommend Jane Doe. If her performance in my class is a good indication of how she would perform as a graduate student, she would be an extremely positive asset to your program.
If I can be of any further assistance, or provide you with any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
College Recommendation Letter Sample 3
Dear Admissions Committee,
It is without hesitation that I write to you in regards to Ted’s acceptance into your prestigious institution. I am a counselor at Crescent Valley High School and have had the pleasure of working with Ted throughout his high school career. I’ve watched him develop into a well-rounded and mature young man, who will accomplish many great things in his lifetime. He is a talented and hard-working individual who finds joy in helping others. Ted has amazing people skills and can make anyone feel comfortable around him.
In Ted’s first year of high school, he came to me in need of some guidance. He had gone through some heavy family problems and it was causing his school work to suffer. I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to help Ted through these rough times. He is a compassionate, caring, and self-effacing person, with an unshakable positive outlook on life. Once he had worked out his own issues, all he wanted to do was take his experiences and help other students with similar problems. He began volunteering at North View Elementary School, talking with kids and even tutoring in multiple subjects. I’ve never come across anyone who wasn’t immediately enamored by Ted’s amicable demeanor.
Throughout his high school career, Ted has excelled in every field of his education and also taken on multiple extra curricular activities. In his senior year, Ted was president of the Student Council, captain of the basketball team, and an honor student. He has become proficient at juggling multiple workloads. He also continued his counselling at the elementary school throughout these years. Even still, he wanted to make a bigger difference. He decided to present his outlook on life by holding a seminar in the gymnasium. Most of the school attended to listen to Ted as he spoke eloquently on overcoming your fears and insecurities and transforming them into positive thinking. It was a captivating 20 minute speech that led to an uproarious standing ovation. Someone managed to film the presentation and the video has thousands of views on YouTube.
I am very pleased that Ted approached me to write this letter as I am so impressed by his achievements and his enormous potential. He is a charming young man who is able to see the good in everyone. If Ted is accepted into your Counseling Psychology Program, there’s no doubt in my mind he will excel in this field and go on to change many lives for the better. The confidence and charisma that he has developed over his high school career is phenomenal and I look forward to seeing that continue in college. Please contact me if you wish to further discuss Ted’s acceptance into your college.
Crescent Valley High School