Letters of Recommendation

When you apply for admission at a college, it is likely that you will need letters of recommendation from people you know. These letters will give you an endorsement for your admission. Usually these are written by your high school’s faculty or staff members. Most of the time, you will have your guidance counselor and at least one teacher write letters of recommendation for you. In order to secure these letters, there are a few things you should do.

First, establish a good relationship with these people as early as possible. Make sure they are people that know you well and are aware of your strengths, skills, and academic history. Be careful when choosing who will be writing your letters. You do not want someone to feel like they are being forced to do so. Be sure that this person wants to help you. Also, it is important that you not ask family members or relatives. If they write a letter of recommendation for you, it will seem biased.

Next, give the person plenty of notice and time to write the letter. Take into account his or her schedule. A good rule of thumb is to notify these people two months before the letter is due. You do not want them to feel rushed. It will be unpleasant for them and you will end up with a lower quality of letter as well. Also, let them know about the specific nature of the letter. For example, they should know if the letter is for a business school, medical school, liberal arts school, or any other type of college.

Give the recommenders a list of your accomplishments for a starting point. You can include specific examples that you would like included in the letter. While it is up to them what to put in your letter, they will likely value the input.

You can also use this as an opportunity to explain to colleges why you have a poor grade on your transcript. For example, you might have your guidance counselor write one of your letters. If you have a low grade in Physics, it could have been because your counselor recommended that you take the class instead of a much easier one that wouldn’t have helped you at all in college. Have your guidance counselor note this in a gracious way and it could help offset the low grade.

Keep in contact with your recommenders. Let them know when you are sending in your application so they can send the letter at the same time.

Finally, after the process is over, send each of your recommenders a thank-you note. Let them know you appreciate their help.


Last Updated: June 4, 2019