No matter what you are applying for, an important piece of the application puzzle is the letter of recommendation. Recommendations are a great enhancement to any application, as they give admission officers and scholarship committees greater insight into your personality, talents, and work ethic.
Generally, whether you are applying for a college, a special program, or a scholarship, you will need at least one recommendation submitted by a teacher, principal, counselor, coach, or community member. You might already have several people in mind—but how do you narrow down the list? And how do you ask? Below are some things to keep in mind when choosing the perfect recommendation writer.
- Make sure your recommender is someone you have had in class or have known for more than one year. This will ensure that they have a good grasp of who you are as a person. Your recommender should be someone who can write at least one full page about you.
- Make sure you have a good relationship with your recommender. The recommendation should be a positive description of your character. Obviously, you wouldn't want to pick someone who doesn't like you to write your letter.
- Make sure your recommender is reputable. A recommendation writer is traditionally a teacher or other education professional. If the application requests a letter from a member of your local community, they don't just mean your next-door neighbor—it should be an employer, an advisor on a project that you worked on, or even a city council member who knows you well.
- If possible, choose a recommender relevant to the major or subject area you will be studying. For example, if you are planning to enter into a medical-related field, you might want to choose a science teacher or mentor to write your recommendation. They should be able to give extra insight into your skills and talents that can be applied to the field.
- Choose a recommender who is a good writer. If you know the writing skills of someone who could recommend you are subpar, it's probably not a good idea to choose them. Your recommender needs to be able to write a letter that provides detailed information in a coherent way.
- Ask in person. Don't just assign a recommender and hope they follow through. You need to ask them—or at least write a nice e-mail or note—to make sure they feel comfortable with writing about you. (Plus, it's the polite thing to do.) Also, be certain to ask them with plenty of time in advance and give them all the information they need so they can complete it before the due date.
- Never ask to see your letter before or after it is sent. In addition to being a violation of confidence, viewing your recommendation will often delegitimize the letter. Most organizations won’t even accept the letter if it is sent directly from the student. Your letter should be submitted by your recommender (or guidance office) in a sealed envelope or through a private system via the Internet.
- Thank your recommender. No matter who you ask, your recommender is giving up their time to help you on your college journey. You can give them a simple thank-you note or even a small gift card to show your appreciation!
Who wrote your letters of recommendation? Let us know in the comments!