Almost every college application students send out requires submission of letters of recommendation. Although it may not be the most important part of the admissions processes, these letters can tip the scale in your favor. It is essential to ask the right people for these letters and that they are written in a certain way. The following are a few guidelines students can follow in order to help them attain a helpful letter of recommendation.
Ask the Right People: The ideal person to ask for a letter of recommendation is a teacher, coach or mentor that you have worked closely with. A person who knows you well in terms of academics and/or community involvement. This person should be able to talk about the student in concrete terms, knowing their passion and energy the student puts into everything they do. Asking a person that has “powerful” connections, yet does not know the student very well can backfire, talking about the student in very superficial terms.
Ask Politely: Students are asking for a favor, please and thank you’s go a long way. Remember the person a student asks can always say no, it is not their obligation to write a letter. These letters do take time and thought and will require the writer to take time out of their busy schedule.
Allow Enough Time: Realize the applications with the letters of recommendation have deadlines. People do not like nor need the extra pressure being rushed doing a student a favor. Give your writer a good amount of time to write the letter and turn it in on time. Last minute requests may lead to a poorly written letter.
Give Detailed Instructions: Each writer should know exactly when the letter is due and where it should be sent. Students may also want to sit with their chosen writer and talk about their goals for college and beyond. This way the writer has a bit more information to work with.
Provide the Stamps and Envelopes: These letters of recommendation are usually sent directly to the school the students are applying to. Make sure the stamps and pre-addressed envelopes are provided making this process as easy as possible for the recommenders.
Friendly Reminders: It is ok to give the recommenders a little reminder. Some people tend to procrastinate and others are just plain forgetful. No, you do not want to be a nuisance or nag anyone, but an occasional reminder is a good idea. Do remember to do it politely, though. Maybe by thanking them again for taking the time to write it will be helpful. This will remind them if for any reason they have not started it.
Sending Thank You Cards: The student’s recommender’s part may be over, but not the student’s. Try to follow up with a thank you note to all of your recommenders. It is a very simple way to show appreciation for their time and effort.
College is a big step. Take your time and make sure all of your application material is as close to perfect as possible. Good luck.