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How to Ask for and Receive Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are an integral part of the college admissions process and most colleges and universities require at least three recommendation letters before they will consider your application. According to CollegeBoard.com, many colleges and universities consider recommendation letters to be just as important as test scores, grade point average, leadership experience, and college preparatory courses in determining student admissions. Each college has their own specific requirements for letters of recommendation, so it is important to make sure that your recommendation letter writer meets the requirements of your potential colleges.

You must plan carefully and ask your recommendation letter writers early to ensure that you will receive the perfect letter of recommendation. You must also ensure that your recommendation letter writer knows what the admissions counselors are looking for in a recommendation letter to ensure that you get the best possible letter.

Before You Ask for that Letter of Recommendation

Establish relationships with individuals who know you as a student, individual, and a professional long before you begin the recommendation letter process. The greatness of your recommendation will depend entirely on how well your letter writers know you and how successfully they capture what the admission counselor wants in your letter. If your high school counselor doesn’t know your name and has only had brief conversions with you, they are not the best choice for a recommendation letter writer.

Years of hard work in the classroom, paying attention to your instructor’s lectures, and going above and beyond what the average student would do will make a deep impression on your recommendation letter writer. Solid performance in the classroom is not the only requirement that matters to potential colleges. Colleges that screen applicants also care what your instructors, counselors, and community leaders think about you as well.

When to Ask and Who to Ask for Letter of Recommendations

You should ask for a letter of recommendation as soon as possible. It takes time to craft the perfect letter, and if you do not give your recommendation letters adequate time to write your letter, they may decline your request. Even worse, you might receive a recommendation letter that is not that great.

Allow your recommendation letter writers at least two months before your letters are due to write your letters. You might also consider asking for recommendation letters the summer break of your junior year to address early applications or instructors who wish to write letters during the summer break.

Make sure that your recommendation letter writers fit the requirements the college of your choice wants. For example, your math teacher is not the appropriate choice if your potential college wants a community leader reference. Also, choose individuals who can stress your strengths and discuss your student performance well.

Make it Easy

Make the process as easy as possible for you recommendation letter writers. Provide your recommendation letter writers with self-addressed and stamped envelopes and remind them of the deadlines for the letters. You could also offer to write a rough draft of the letter or provide a document listing your accomplishments, activities, goals, and specific projects you completed as a student. A example of the information a college admissions office might require is available at CollegeBoard.com.

Follow-Up and Say Thank You

Make sure to follow-up with each recommendation letter writer at least two weeks before the recommendation letters are due to ensure that they do not require assistance and that the letters will be mailed in time.

Send each recommendation letter writer thank you notes for their efforts. Also, tell your letter writers where you are going to college. The connections you make with your recommendation letter writers can work to your advantage as you advance professionally and academically.

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