Who Not to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

on March 21, 2017

Letters of recommendation are a part of the college application process that can help define an applicant’s character. There are, however, some pitfalls students should avoid when asking people to write a letter of recommendation.


Do Not Ask a Parent


This should seem obvious, but do not ask a parent to write a letter of recommendation. College admissions officers will find this laughable and not seriously consider an application that includes a letter from a parent. Letters of recommendation should be written by an objective and independent source, not a relative. And parents, no matter how special you think your student is, do not write a letter of recommendation for them.


Do Not Ask a Friend


Much like asking a parent for a letter of recommendation, do not ask a friend. Although your friends might have glowing things to say about you, they will not hold sway in the college admissions process. If you are looking for someone to talk about your character, ask a teacher, club sponsor or coach.


Do Not Ask a Local Celebrity


Although a student might think it’s a good idea to ask a mayor, member of Congress or local celebrity for a letter of recommendation, it is problematic. College admissions officers are looking to get to know an applicant. Having someone who has clout in local circles but barely knows the student will not help admissions officers make a decision. In fact, it might hinder it.


Do Not Ask Someone Who Cannot Speak About You


As a general rule, the people who do write letters of recommendation should be able to speak to your character and strengths. If someone doesn’t know your academic record or performance in extracurriculars, he or she isn’t a good fit to write a letter. Your letter should showcase something beyond your college application essays, test scores and transcripts. If a letter is general and lacks depth, it will not help your application.

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