How to Get a College Recommendation Letter

In College Admissions on Apr 21, 2016

How much do you know about letters of recommendation? Many colleges and scholarships require them with your application, so it’s time to brush up on the basics and figure out just what you need to do to get a great letter of recommendation for college.

Why Are They Important?
Your application for a university or scholarship clearly expresses why you want a spot in the school or money to pay for it. But a recommendation from someone else carries a lot of weight. Whether you’re trying to get into your top-choice school or win a huge scholarship, having someone else vouch for you gives you a leg up.

Who Should I Ask for a Recommendation?
Almost anyone can write this letter for you. A coach. Your favorite teacher. Someone who oversees an organization you volunteer at. The manager at your part-time job. A religious or community leader you’ve known for a while. Any person who can speak highly of your work ethic, abilities or dedication is someone you want writing your recommendation letters.

Avoid asking teachers you don't know well or anyone who doesn't have a strong opinion of your work ethic.

What Do I Say?
We get it. Sometimes it’s awkward to ask for a favor. But believe it or not, most people would be thrilled to write you a letter of recommendation. More often than not, they’re flattered you picked them to help you.

Ask in person whenever possible. You second best option is the phone, but you should only use email when you can’t get in touch with someone any other way.

Tell them what scholarship or college you’re applying for and ask if they’re able to write a letter of recommendation to support your application. Be sure to give at least a few weeks’ notice so they have time to get it done.

What Do They Need From Me?
So you’ve found the people who will write your letters.  But you’re not done just yet – you should supply them with the following things before they start writing:

  • The deadline: Let them know when you’ll need the letter and when the entire application is due. Don’t forget to follow up with a reminder!
  • Your resume: Community leaders, teachers, and coaches often deal with a lot of students. Even if you’re sure the person you’ve asked knows your history, provide them with a resume to jog their memory or provide additional details.
  • Stamped and addressed envelopes: The individual writing your recommendation is doing you a favor, so make the process as easy as possible for them. Provide stamped, addressed envelopes so they can just put the letters in the mailbox when they’re done.
  • A thank-you note: After the letters are finished and mailed, don’t forget to follow up with a note expressing your appreciation. Let the writer know you’ll keep them updated on the status of your application, and follow through on that promise.

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