As you apply to US colleges, getting a letter of recommendation should be part of your to-do list. If you’re struggling with this task, just follow these tips to get a great recommendation letter — stress free!
Ask Someone Who Knows You Well
Some students make the mistake of asking the same person their friends did instead of selecting someone who knows them on a deeper, more personal level. If you want a great recommendation letter that focuses on your best attributes and accomplishments, take our advice and ask a person who really knows you — someone who has seen you grow as both a student and an individual.
The most common person to ask to ensure a great letter of recommendation is a teacher who knows you both inside and outside the classroom.
For example, if you started a club in high school, consider asking the sponsoring teacher for a letter of recommendation. Similarly, if you worked on a project that required some guidance from a teacher, they might be the perfect person to ask for a recommendation.
If you don’t have a particularly strong relationship with any of your teachers you can also ask another adult who has seen you in a professional or academic capacity. This can include any past employers, athletic coaches, or instructors such as music teachers.
But keep in mind, most US schools will require at least one letter of recommendation from a teacher. If you’re worried that the person you’re asking might not know you well enough, provide them with your student resume. This will help them understand your personal interests and accomplishments.
Quick tip: When requesting your letter of recommendation, always ask in person rather than just sending an email. Speaking one-on-one with the individual is more personal and it also provides the perfect opportunity talk about both your passions and interests as well as your plans for the future.
Provide an Example of a Great Letter of Recommendation
Once you decide who to ask for a college letter of recommendation, make sure he or she knows how to properly format it. Typical letters of recommendation in your country might be too short and sweet or too long and drawn out for US college admissions officers to accept.
To ensure you get the right kind of letter, simply go online and find a few examples of recommendation letters for US colleges. Print them out and show them to the person who has agreed to write yours.
He or she will appreciate you simplifying the process, and you’ll appreciate obtaining a correctly formatted letter of recommendation that meets US college admission requirements.
Eliminate Any Language Barriers
If you live in an English-speaking country, you won’t have to worry about any language barriers when it comes to US college admissions officers reading your letter of recommendation. Even if there are some spelling differences such as you commonly see between British English and American English, they’ll still be able to understand the letter.
On the other hand, if the person writing your letter of recommendation is not a native English speaker, after you receive the letter you’ll want to have it professionally translated. Academic translation by professionals will ensure that US college admissions counselors can easily comprehend all the wonderful things your teacher, employer or instructor had to say about you.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
If you want a great letter of recommendation, you should ask for it a few months ahead of time. You can’t expect the person who is writing your letter to complete it the night before it’s due, at least not if you want the best results possible.
Additionally, translation takes time (days or even sometimes weeks), so you need to make sure you’ve allowed for this process. The sooner you ask for a letter of recommendation, the better.
If you didn’t allow enough time for your translation and you find yourself in a pinch, rush-translation services are available (though we advise you use this option only as a last resort as it adds unnecessary stress).
One last thing to keep in mind — whoever you ask for your letter of recommendation has likely received other requests from fellow students. It’s okay to gently remind the person so they keep your letter in the forefront of their minds, just make sure you’re not bombarding them. For instance, reminding them once a week is fine, sending them daily email reminders is not.
Every US college requires at least one letter of recommendation (most require two and some even three!). Make sure you read the application requirements carefully so you know exactly what kind and how many letters you need.
After all, a great letter of recommendation can make or break your college application, so put these tips into practice and rest easy knowing you have a letter of recommendation that truly shines!