Preparing for College Recommendation Letters

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Every college and university has slightly different requirements for letters of recommendation. Carefully read instructions for the letters so that you clearly understand them. Here’s a general to-do list to help make sure the necessities are covered during the pre-acceptance scramble:

  • Check the college’s admission requirements to learn how many letters of recommendation you need to send (or can send), and who is eligible to write on your behalf. Usually, but not always, colleges want a letter from one or two teachers, and sometimes a counselor. They may also allow you to get a letter from an employer or a person who knows you outside of school.
  • List all the people you know who can write a strong letter for you.
  • From the above list, choose the best candidates.
  • Don’t make them start blind—create a list of your skills and attributes (an informal resume), so they will know what they can emphasize.
  • Before you meet with someone to ask about writing a letter of recommendation (yes, do this in person), make an appointment.
  • When meeting, take in a packet to help them. Include your compiled list of personal strengths, a copy of the personal letter you will be sending to the college, and your academic resume that includes both grades and extracurricular honors. Is the letter being emailed? Make sure the person knows this and has the email address. If there is a form for the letter, be sure to include that. Also, take stamped, addressed envelopes, so they can send your letter without any inconvenience. On the front of the packet, put your name and the due date for the letter. Make a packet for each college.
  • Follow up before the letter is due to make sure each professional sends their letter on time.
  • Write a personal thank-you to each person who wrote a letter of recommendation.

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Categories: Education: Middle and High School