7 Tips to Get a Great Letter of Recommendation

One of the required documents for many college applications is the recommendation. You might need to get a letter of recommendation from a teacher or your counselor. Other colleges might ask for a recommendation from a coach, pastor, or volunteer coordinator. Some view the recommendation as a requirement that carries little weight, while others think it is much more important. The weight of the recommendation will vary depending on the colleges you are considering. However, in the world of holistic admission, anything can come into play and a great recommendation can push the student over the top to receive admission. Therefore, the recommendation should be considering an important part of the application process.

Choose the right recommendation writers
  • Choose someone who knows you well. Admission professionals read thousands of recommendations every year and can typically tell if the writer knows the student well or not. The best recommendation letters come from individuals who know you well. The reason for this is because they will be able to share anecdotes about why you are a great candidate and they can highlight information about you that might not have been covered in the application. Someone who does not know you well won’t be able to do that for you.
  • Follow directions. If there is a specific recommendation requirement, make sure to follow directions. Sometimes you will be asked to submit a recommendation from a teacher who teaches a specific subject. You may want to go around this requirement and choose the teacher who knows you better. However, not following the directions can ensure your application will not be considered.
Get to know the recommendation writer

Make an appointment to discuss the recommendation. This meeting is a great time to share more about your college plans. This can lead to a great discussion that will allow your recommendation writer to get better information so they can submit the best recommendation they can. Even if the recommendation writer knows you well, they can always get to know you a little better. Share your college plans and aspirations so they can share why you will be a great candidate for the college(s) you are considering.

Let them know about the recommendation

Don’t let the automatic recommendation request be the first time your recommendation writer learns about your request. Many applications ask applicants to provide email addresses for the individuals they want to submit their recommendations. The application will then send a generic email to the person asking them to submit the recommendation. Be personal and ask the individual if they will consider writing your recommendation before providing their email address. Follow-up with the individual after you provided the email address to let them know they should have received the official recommendation request by email. This will ensure you know they received the request.

Ask politely

We know senior year is busy and you have a lot going on. It might be easy for you stop by your teacher’s desk at the end of class and say something like, “FYI, I put you down to do my recommendation for my college applications.” Teachers and counselors are just as busy. Many of them do not receive extra time or pay to write recommendations for students. Students who ask politely and show appreciation for them going out of their way to write the recommendation will probably receive a better recommendation than someone who demands that they write the recommendation.

Provide ample time

Teachers and counselors are just as busy as you! In addition to teaching classes, they may be providing tutoring after school, acting as an advisor for a club on campus, and many have families of their own. In addition, hundreds of students may be asking for recommendations! Give your recommendation writers at least a month to submit the recommendation. If you don’t give them enough time to write the recommendation, the letter may be rushed and won’t add anything valuable when the admission committee is considering your application. Recommendation writers who are given enough time will be able to think about the letter and figure out how they can add valuable information that can help during the admission process.

Waive your FERPA rights

Recommendation writers may not feel comfortable being candid and honest in their recommendation if you do not waive your rights. At some high schools, teachers and counselors will not submit a recommendation if students do not waive this right. In addition, admissions committees may not trust a recommendation if they know the applicant has seen the letter. As long as you are choosing a recommendation writer who knows you well, there is nothing to worry about and they will provide a great recommendation.

Don’t forget to say thank you

Recommendation writers don’t have to write a letter for you. Therefore, be appreciative of the extra time they have spent to help you. It is also nice to keep them updated throughout the college admission process. For example, when you receive an acceptance letter from a college their recommendation was sent, share the joy with them.

The letter of recommendation can play an important role in the college admission process. Therefore, make sure you are sending in the best possible recommendations by following the recommendations above!

Want to stay in the loop? Follow my blog to be notified when new articles are published. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebook or Pinterest for information on college admissions.


Teachers and Counselors
Want to share this article with your students? Here is a printable version of this article. 


3 Comments on “7 Tips to Get a Great Letter of Recommendation

  1. Jessica, may I please have a PDF file of this article? It will help me and others especially Native students.

  2. Pingback: 7 Tips to Get a Great Letter of Recommendation | Aquinas American School

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: