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How Many Recommendation Letters Should Students Submit?

Three might be the magic number--but the most important thing is that your recommenders know you well. Learn more here!

Anne Macleod WeeksAnne Macleod Weeks
Upper School Director
The Agnes Irwin School
It's best to submit two teacher recommendations from either your junior or senior year. One should be from an English teacher, and the other can be from a different discipline, depending on the area you think you may study. Your high school counselor should write the third recommendation letter. If you have another adult who knows you in an area that you would like to highlight—such as a boss from an after-school or summer job, a coach, a religious mentor, a scoutmaster, etc.—you can add a fourth recommendation. The most important thing is that the recommender know you well. But there’s an old saying in admission: “The thicker the file, the thicker the kid.” This means that too many letters of recommendation can raise a red flag that the applicant is nervous that he or she is not qualified enough for admission and is trying to offset a weakness with multiple recommendations.

Francesca MorrisseyFrancesca Morrissey
Founder & College Consultant
Access Success LLC
With respect to submitting additional letters of recommendation where allowed, in the (not quite) post-COVID-19 climate, having another reference can be helpful. I recommend using a coach, employer, clergy member, scout leader, etc. in addition to a teacher and a school counselor recommendation—in other words, someone who knows you well outside of school that isn’t a family member. Even if a school allows you to submit multiple additional letters, I recommend only sending one. They get it! All these people think you're awesome. It’ll be helpful to your recommenders if you provide a copy of your résumé so they can write about you holistically. Letters of recommendation should be sought before the end of junior year, and you should always ask in person. Also let your recommenders know your submission plans. For example, if you're applying Early Decision or Early Action, your recommender should have your letter ready by early to mid-October. And it doesn't hurt to send an email reminder in August, along with a thank you.

Not sure who, how, or when to ask for a letter of receommendation? Learn all about it here!

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