When preparing an admission packet, the college application, essay, and test scores are at the forefront of most students’ minds. But there’s one more piece to a complete portfolio that shouldn’t be forgotten – a letter of recommendation (or three)!
Letters of recommendation aren’t always required for the application process, but many schools do utilize them to evaluate applicants (and they are frequently required on scholarship applications). These recommendations round out the “paper version” of who a student is, giving the admission committee a view of the student’s character in addition to his academic ability. Thus, a good recommendation letter should come from someone who knows the student well enough to actually recommend them. Here are some guidelines for your student to use for acquiring these letters:
Who to Ask
It’s might be tempting to ask someone to write a letter of recommendation because they have status or influence, but only do so if that person also knows you well. Look for non-relatives who can attest to your work ethic, dedication, integrity, and/or academics. These people could be community college professors, tutors, employers, or adult family friends.
How to Ask
When asking someone to recommend you, be sure to do so long before the letter is due! You don’t want your recommender to feel pressured or as if they can’t produce their best work on your behalf. Place the request weeks or months ahead of the deadline, and give them a concrete date by which you need the document.
If the college has stated what kind of letter they’re seeking, relay those details to your acquaintance. Quite often, the recommender must send in the letter himself (this guarantees that no changes are made by the student in transit), so it’s polite to provide stamps and envelopes for ease of postage.
What to Include
As previously stated, if the college or scholarship has specific letter requirements share those when you make the request. If there are no guidelines, tell your recommender:
- The name of the college (or name of scholarship)
- The intended department at the college
- Your intended program/study plan (so they can attest to your abilities in that area)
- Why you wish to attend this college (or why are are applying for the scholarship)
This information will give them more to work with as they draft the document.
Be sure to politely follow up with your recommender to be sure the letters are sent on time; a good way to do this is to send a thank you note for the recommendation. If they haven’t sent it yet, they’ll be reminded – plus be assured of your gratitude!
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