In college admissions, application forms and essays give admissions officers your own perspective on your achievements. However, to get another person’s viewpoint they often turn to your letters of recommendation.
When you apply to college, you will typically submit between one and three recommendation letters from teachers, employers, or other adults who can vouch for your academic achievements or personal character. Even though others actually write the letters, you might be surprised to discover that you can influence the results by who you select and what information you provide them.
Here are some strategies for getting the best possible college recommendation letters:
1. Start Early
Most colleges require two teacher recommendations and a school report completed by your counselor, principal, or headmaster. Some schools also allow you to submit an extra recommendation. Giving out the recommendation forms early should be your first priority.
Recommenders need at least three weeks if not several months to prepare your recommendations, especially if they are busy teachers or administrators and have a stack of other recommendations to write. Before doing anything else, work on distributing the forms to them. But first, you need to find some recommenders.
2. Hunt Down The Best Recommenders
Identifying quality recommenders is much like finding star witnesses for a courtroom. You want people who can testify in support of your strengths, who are believable, and who won’t reveal anything incriminating. Essentially you want to find people who know your strengths and will attest to them.
For example, if your English teacher thinks that you are the next Hemingway, then you should ask him. Or, if biology is so easy that your teacher asks you to grade the exams, then you should ask her. Obviously the teachers in whose classes you excel will be your most likely candidates.
For the school report, you may not have a choice who to ask. Many colleges specify which administrator should complete the report, usually your counselor, college advisor, principal, or schoolmaster. If you are given a choice, of course pick the one who knows you and your accomplishments best.
3. Give Them Everything They Need
Once you have your recommenders, put together a packet with a cover letter, resume, and all of the forms that they need to fill out for the colleges. Be sure to include in the cover letter a list of all the deadlines. Also, spend the extra money and put stamps on the envelopes so all your recommenders have to do is drop their recommendations in the mailbox.
4. Check In Often
Make sure that none of your recommendations are turned in late. It’s your responsibility to make sure that your recommenders are aware of the deadlines and complete everything on time. Without pestering, make sure you inquire every so often about the status of the recommendation. A subtle way to remind them is to send a thank you note a week before the recommendations are due.
While you can’t control every word your recommenders write, by following the above four steps you will greatly increase the chances that you will have stellar recommendations.
Gen & Kelly Tanabe are the authors of Get Into Any College: Secrets Of Harvard Students and Get Free Cash For College: Scholarship Secrets Of Harvard Students, and founders of SuperCollege.com… where you’ll find more tips, secrets, and strategies.
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