Pursuing Letters of Recommendation for College Admission

March 29th, 2009

A good letter of recommendation can get you into the college you want to attend. It is one of the documents most schools require along with an application and can mean more than anything else. There are a few key tips for obtaining a good recommendation.

Almost every time, you will want to ask teachers to write your letters of recommendation. Make sure to ask them respectfully and early so that they can write an extremely beneficial letter. When picking a teacher, here are a few things to consider.

1. Which teachers know you very well?

A teacher who knows you very well will be able to write a better, more truthful and heartfelt letter of recommendation that can be tailored to the school you want.

If you have to select a teacher who doesn’t know you extremely well, take the time to tell the teacher more about yourself. Pick a teacher who had you as a student recently so you are fresh in their mind. Of course, approach a teacher who likes you a lot.

2. Which teachers can write the best?

A letter of recommendation makes you look better when it is well written. Be sure to pick a teacher who can speak and write very well. Some teachers may be very good at what they do and like you a lot, but express it poorly.

That might seem unfair, but this will reflect on you. Art and music teachers tend to write poor letters, while English teachers are generally better. Try to find a teacher who has written many such letters for other students.

3. Which teacher makes me look good to which school?

If you are going to an art school, it might actually make sense to use your art teacher, even if that individual is not the best writer. The teacher from the subject you will be pursuing usually makes the most sense if you are applying for a specialized program.

Once you have selected your teachers, send them your transcript and make sure you remind them about their agreement and how important this is to you. They aren’t supposed to let you see the letters of recommendation, but most will show their comments to you anyway.

It is okay to tell the writer of the letter what general things you think they should talk about, but the actual content is always up to the writer. Make sure the writer can describe you in a way that is both gushing and sincere. Everyone expects letters of recommendation to be extremely positive.

Every application has slightly different requirements as to how the letter should be sent. Some want it mailed directly from the writer; others want it in with your application. Follow all application instructions carefully because your acceptance depends on it. Few admissions offices will accept you if you can’t follow instructions.

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