Recommendation forms and letters are common requirements for college and scholarship applications. Many students do not think about recommendations until senior year when they are applying to college. However, recommendations are typically needed for other things such as scholarships, honors programs and even jobs. Therefore, students should be prepared to get the best recommendations possible at all times in their academic careers, not just the senior year. The best recommendations come from someone who can speak about all aspects of a student’s life: academic, activities, and future plans. However, most students do not have a teacher or counselor who knows them this well.
The best way for students to ensure a recommendation writer can write a thorough recommendation is to provide them a brag sheet. The brag sheet gives the reader an insight into parts of the student’s life they may not get to witness themselves. Recommendations can be required from many different types of people including teachers, counselors, coaches, pastors or friends. Most of these people will not know everything a student is doing. Therefore, students should add the following sections, if applicable, to their brag sheet:
- Extracurricular activities. This includes clubs and organizations, as well as activities such as student government, yearbook, newspaper, music and drama.
- Organized sports.
- Volunteer activities.
- Honors and awards.
- Academic information. Students do not need to recreate their transcripts, but should include their grade point average, test scores, and number of Advanced Placement and honors courses taken.
- Community and church activities.
- Summer experiences. Students can include things such as mission trips, community service projects, travel programs (not vacations) and summer school programs at colleges or universities.
- Hobbies. Students should be selective when choosing hobbies because not all hobbies need to be included. Only hobbies that can impress the reader should be included in the brag sheet. Examples of hobbies could be photography, musician, or anything that is done competitively.
Brag sheets should include descriptions of activities (if necessary), leadership positions and the amount of time the student dedicates to the activity. In addition, only high school activities should be included. There is no right or wrong way to create a brag sheet. Therefore, students should be creative and organize it in such a way that makes it attractive and easy to read. One page should be sufficient to include all substantial information about the student.
Students should start putting together their brag sheet as early as the ninth grade. Opportunities that require recommendations can come up at any time, so having a brag sheet readily available will make getting the recommendation easier. In addition, students should continually update their brag sheet as they participate in new activities and receive awards. In addition to providing the brag sheet to recommendation writers, there are other uses:
- Reference. It is possible to forget something, for example, in the ninth grade. Therefore, students should use the brag sheet as a reference when filling out applications to ensure they do not forget any of the great things they have done in the past.
- Give to admissions officer. When visiting colleges, students usually have an opportunity to schedule a meeting with an admission officer. These meetings are a great way to learn more about the college, but also to learn about the chances of being admitted. Students can provide their brag sheet to the admissions officer as they are discussing qualifications.
- Include with your college or scholarship application. Some applications allow students to include addition information, including resumes or brag sheets. While brag sheets should never take the place of the application and students should always answer all of the questions on the application, the brag sheet allows students to provide further detail about activities.
Students should take their time when putting together the brag sheet. In addition, students should not be humble when talking about their accomplishments. In the competitive world of college admissions and scholarships, students must set themselves apart from other applicants. The best way to do this is to brag about everything they have done and include it in the brag sheet. Not only will the students be able to brag about themselves in the application, the recommendation writer with the brag sheet now had the information they need to write a great review. Therefore, students should take their time creating the brag sheet to ensure they include all of the great things they have done.