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Your College Recommendation Letter

Three tips to get a recommendation letter that highlights your best traits.

Think of your college recommendation letter as a commercial for yourself. College admissions officers need to know all of your best qualities before they decide that you are just what their college needs.

But you can’t write a recommendation letter yourself. If your college application requires one (or more!), follow these 3 steps to help you get the best recommendation letter possible to show colleges and universities.

1. Ask for a recommendation letter from a teacher who knows you well.

Requesting a letter of recommendation from teachers you had for several classes is best. They will be able to write a much more thorough, comprehensive recommendation than teachers you had for one term three years ago! Also, a teacher in the field that you want to major in will be able to explain to the college exactly what makes you an excellent candidate for admission.

Colleges and universities often ask that the student doesn’t see the recommendation letter after it is written (for example, the college may request the letter in a sealed envelope). For that reason, it is important that you choose a teacher whom you trust to write your recommendation letter.

2. Give the writer time!

Don’t you hate being assigned a report that is due the very next day? Your teacher does too.

Ask your teacher for a recommendation letter as soon as you know that the college you are applying to needs one. Preferably this will give your teacher several weeks (if not a month or more) to write the letter before the college application deadline. When your teacher has enough time, you are more likely to have a thoughtful recommendation letter that is specific to you.

3. Provide your resume to your recommendation writer.

No matter how well your teachers know you, they probably don’t know all of the extracurricular activities you are involved with inside and outside of school. Maybe they aren’t aware that you are president of the Spanish Club, ride horses, or won an award for your model rocket.

Give the teacher writing your recommendation letter the professional resume you use to apply for internships or jobs, or at the very least a list of your activities, hobbies and accomplishments. Your teacher then can use your deeds as further examples of your brilliant qualities!

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A teacher isn’t required to write a college recommendation letter for you, although most happily will. You also may consider asking for a recommendation letter from a guidance counselor, coach, employer or another adult you know well. Find out the types and number of recommendation letters the college prefers.