By now, college applications are coming to a close and you’re probably putting the final touches on your application. Or, if you’re a junior you’re already thinking about how to submit the perfect application. Part of the application process is the recommendation letter. Recommendation letters are an integral part of a college application. Some colleges, most in fact, require that you submit one. So, what is a recommendation letter and do you get your hands on one?
Letters of recommendation are simple: it’s a letter from people who know you well enough to write about you as an individual.
Why Do Colleges Even Want Recommendation Letters?
Colleges understand that you are more than the numbers that define you (GPA, SAT, ACT, etc.). Admissions officials love when students excel academically. However, letters of recommendation from people who know you well supply a more personal approach to your application. Much like the essay, the letter reveals things about you that test scores and numbers cannot. It shows the college or university things such as: your ability to work in a group, how well you overcome challenges, your ability to adapt, etc.
Who the Heck Do I Ask?
Talk to peers, family, teachers and councilors about who you should ask.
If you decide to use a teacher for your recommendation, use a current teacher or someone who knows you inside and out of class (i.e. your English teacher who also coaches your baseball team) Believe it or not, you don’t have to just ask teachers and administrators. Ask influential adults who can write strong recommendation letters. These can be people like, youth pastors, outside sports coaches, etc.
No matter who you ask, make sure they are fully willing and excited to write one for you, you don’t want a letter that was written by someone who felt obligated to write it.
When Should I Start Asking?
It’s never too early to start thinking about college recommendation letters. Start having meetings with the people who you think could best represent you.
About the middle of your junior year start having conversations with your teachers and councilors about who is the best fit to write your letter. This is going to give the person writing plenty of time to write the best letter-- a last-minute recommendation isn’t going to be all that good.
When you find those select people to write your letters make sure to communicate with them. Let the person writing your letter know about all of your accomplishments. Some examples of things you could tell them would be: a job you have, a project you did or an obstacle you over came. Have meetings and talk about the contents of your letter. Be certain that the writer knows when the letter is due.
Teachers especially write many recommendation letters, be sure to show your gratitude and be patient with them. Showing your gratitude through a nice thank you e-mail or card would really mean a lot to them!
A good recommendation letter can put the finishing touches on an already great college application, so be sure to stay organized through this process. Know your deadlines, keep tabs on the people doing your recommendations and everything should run smooth.