As you think ahead to college you’ll want to show the college admissions counselors where you excel in your personal life. This might be a musical or athletic skill. Or maybe volunteer experience you’ve had with veterans, handicapped children, or inner-city youth. Perhaps you’ve started a landscaping business. Or you’ve won poetry contests or chess competitions. Wherever it is that you’ve excelled you should get a recommendation letter that speaks to the contribution you’ve made. This will help the college admissions counselor get a clear picture of the contributions you will make to the college if you decide to attend.
What are we talking about? Here’s an example of a pretty good recommendation letter with some annotations pointing out the different parts of a good letter.
So how do you go about getting a recommendation letter? It’s pretty straightforward. You start by asking. You ask a person in a position to comment on the contribution you’ve made.
- If this is an academic strength ask your teacher
- For contributions in competition ask your coach, a referee, or a judge
- If you’ve volunteered, ask your manager or director or even someone you’ve helped
- You can ask your customers directly for recommendations for work you’ve performed if you own your own business
You can manage and track your recommendations through CollegeTicket directly. After you’ve added an activity to your activities resume, go to My Portfolio => Recommendations. You’ll be able to send an email directly to the person you want to get a recommendation from. You’ll also be able to track if they’ve responded to the recommendation. If you’re given a hardcopy of a recommendation or a PDF, you can scan it and upload it to your profile so you have all these in one place. Getting recommendations now during your freshman year will ensure
- you get fresh and accurate letters from the people you ask
- save you a lot of time in your senior year because you won’t have to remember who to ask and figure out how to contact them
- allow you to choose from the most relevant recommendations for your college application
Recommendation letters should be focused on the one or two skills or traits you want to highlight about yourself. To make it easier for your recommender, provide specific direction about the kind of detail you would like in the recommendation. Getting a recommendation that is very general is almost worse than getting no recommendation at all. It says the person didn’t really know you or the value you contributed.
For instance, if you play center for a football team you may ask the coach to include details like
- He spent the off-season building up his stamina with daily aerobic workouts and his strength by hitting the weight room 4 times a week
- He connected well with the quarterback and did not miss a snap in the last two years
Or if you won a poetry competition ask your teacher or tutor to include details like
- She asked me to work with her over the summer to hone her ability to choose the right words
- We read and discussed the poetry of Keats, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare as she developed her winning submission
Here’s an example of a letter you might write asking for a recommendation
I think you get the idea. The more specific the recommendation, the more the college admissions counselor can trust your application.
And because people are busy, I would even suggest writing a draft of the recommendation that you want, and then forward that to the person you’re asking. Let them know that you’ve provided a first draft and they can edit as they see fit or start from scratch if they would like. Your goal is to get a solid recommendation, and making the processes as easy as possible will help this go smoothly.
After you receive the recommendation be sure to send a thank you card and let them know how grateful you are for their help.