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College Recommendation Letters

Students who are applying to college have a lot of control in the admissions process. They can work on getting high grades in high school, participate in extracurricular activities and sports teams, write their college essays early, and choose which schools they apply to. However, one area they do not have as much control over is the college recommendation letter.

The Recommendation Letter is Part of the Application Process

The college recommendation letter is an important part of the admissions process. Most colleges and universities require multiple college recommendation letters as part of a student’s application. The letters can be written by a number of different people, including teachers, employers and coaches.

College admissions officers read these letters carefully. The college recommendation letter allows the admissions officer to gain an insightful view of a candidate, and helps them form an opinion about whether they will be accepted or not. The letter should confirm the college admissions officer’s beliefs of the candidate, based on what was already presented in the application. A good college recommendation letter can only help a student as they seek admission into a college or university. However, if the writer has reservations about a student, that could hinder the application depending on a number of factors. Students are also encouraged to not have the recommendation letter writers use form letters, nor ask people who are known to not be good writers or are unorganized. Students should also avoid well-known people who may not know them that well on a personal level. Admissions officers would rather read a letter from someone who knows a great deal about the student.

The Recommendation Letter Process Needs to Start Early

There are a number of things a student can do to ensure their college recommendation letters are well written and received on time. Students should ask the person who is writing the letter early in the admissions process, with some recommending as early as the junior year of high school. This is especially true for teachers and guidance counselors who could get dozens of requests in a school year. This also gives the letter writer adequate time to prepare the letter. Students should also follow directions on the application, including sending the letter in the proper form to the proper address (whether electronically or through the traditional mail system), and send the required number of letters.

Talk to the Recommendation Letter Writer

It is also best to choose a letter writer who knows you best and will write a positive letter. For teachers, it is best to choose those who teach subjects you will possibly be majoring in during college. Students also should choose teachers who know them well, even if they did not do as great in the class as they would have liked. A teacher may write a letter that shows how dedicated you were to the class, which could go a long way with a college admissions officer. One way to figure out who the best person is to write the letter is to talk with the person and remind them of accomplishments and qualifications.

Follow-Up With the Recommendation Letter Writer

After an acceptable period of time has passed between asking someone to write a college recommendation letter, it is best check with the college or university admission office to see if the letter was received, and to follow-up with the writer. Sending a thank you note to the writer is always a nice gesture, and giving a small gift is acceptable, but not a requirement. Once you gain acceptance to school, it is best to write another letter to your writer that updates them on the status of your application.

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