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College Letters of Recommendation

When you apply to college you will need to request college letters of recommendation to accompany your college application. This page details what a letter of recommendation consists of, when and who to ask, and few simple tips to keeping the writer happy.

What Are College Letters Of Recommendation?

A college letter of recommendation is a one page letter written by a mentor that details why you are a great candidate for college. The letters of recommendation you send will give insight into your achievements, initiative and personality. Colleges look for letters written by someone who knows you in an academic or leadership capacity. Some examples are high school teachers, coaches, private instructors and guidance counselors. A college application will require two to three letters of recommendation on average.

When To Request Letters of Recommendation

Start about two months before applications are due. You will want to approach your potential letter-writers with enough lead time for them to write the letter well and meet application deadlines. Teachers and guidance counselors are usually swamped with requests, and still have to grade term papers and assist other students as normal during the fall of your senior year, so allow them plenty of time to address your needs.

Who To Request A Recommendation From

Choose carefully! When requesting a college letter of recommendation, pick someone that knows you well. The better the connection you have to the individual, the better the letter will turn out. Don't choose your English teacher because you know she is the best writer in the school, if she doesn't know you well the letter will not be effective. In fact, because most teachers are bombarded during this time with requests, a teacher may even turn down your request if they don't feel they are the best fit. Other times you might get turned down because of timing conflicts, so make sure you give yourself enough lead time so you do not get turned down and that if you are you can find another writer. Don't be discouraged if someone says no, you need to keep on searching for a person who feels comfortable writing a letter on your behalf. It can be someone you had for Math 2 years ago, keep your options open. Make a list and ask your top choices first, second choices next and so on.

Make Writing The Recommendation Easy For the Writer

A tip to getting an individual to accept, and to make it easy on them, which may or may not make them write more favorably about you, is to give them a little direction. Prepare the recommendation letter-writer by giving them one page of information about yourself; note what school your interested in and why, your most recent achievements, and maybe why you chose them to write the letter. This information will help the letter-writer compose a thoughtful and accurate recommendation. You can do this verbally as well, but a typed up info sheet will help reinforce how organized you are, and how prepared you are to go to college. You can also provide your letter-writers with stamped envelopes addressed to your colleges, or more instruction on how to send the letter to your school. Remember teachers don't get paid more to write college letters of recommendation, it is a personal favor, so show that you appreciate their time. It is common to send the writer a thank you letter, or even a small gift, to show appreciation

Getting Your Letters Before Application Deadlines

Keep track of the deadlines, and do not hesitate to remind your letter-writers of deadlines. People do forget, and you do not want the admissions office to be waiting for this last piece of your application. Most colleges will not review your application until all parts have been received!

Other Materials You Need In Addition To Letters of Recommendation

Explore the resources below to learn more about the application materials you will need when you apply to college:

>> Learn more about College Applications and how to complete them.

>> Learn more about College Admissions Essays and tips on developing essay topics.

>> Learn how Test Scores and Transcripts are used admissions.

>> Learn how to ace a College Interview.