Letters of recommendation are an important part of your college application process, and the first glimpse at your character that college admissions teams will have. Put your best foot forward by making the most of your letters of recommendation.
1) Pick your references carefully. Often colleges will request recommendations from specific people, such as your teacher on a certain subject, or your school counsellor. Be sure to know exactly what the college is looking for, and deliver that. Choose current teachers who can speak positively of your performance, rather than going back to teachers from freshman year, as colleges want a snapshot of your current academic work.
2) Give your references time. It’s easy to underestimate how much time it can write a letter of recommendation, but keep in mind that teachers and counsellors often are juggling multiple requests, as well as their own coursework! Give your references at least 1 month to complete their letters, and preferably longer than that to ensure that you get the most carefully thought-out and compelling recommendations. It helps if you put your request for a letter of recommendation in writing, including deadlines, and to follow up with your reference a couple of times during the process to keep them on track.
3) Give your references information and motivation. A short conversation with each of your references about what colleges and programs you’re considering will give them perspective for your letter. Remind them of times that you did a particularly good job on a project or essay, and even give them copies of your work if it jogs their memories. You want to give them all the information they need to write the best letter of recommendation. This is a good time to do a bit of quiet bragging and remind your references why they should be proud to recommend such an excellent college prospect.
4) Thank your references. Be sure to follow up with each person who writes you a letter of recommendation to thank them for their work.
Students are often surprised at just how positive their letters of recommendation, so if possible, ask for copies to keep. They’ll serve as motivation throughout your college careers!