How to Score Awesome Letters of Recommendation
Pre-planning is important. Even if your application is due soon, don't expect that people have time to drop everything to finish your letter today.
A strong letter of recommendation might be enough to tip the college admissions scale in your favor. Maintaining positive relationships with teachers, administrators, coaches, and leaders of organizations that you belong to is essential. Keep in touch, and/or rekindle relationships with influential people throughout your high school years. Doing so will pay dividends when it comes time to ask for letters of recommendation!
TIP ONE: Pick the right people
The most valuable recommendation letters always come from people that know you best. Choose people that value your contribution to them just as much as you value their influence on you. Keep in mind that the title of the person writing your recommendation may may matter. Most colleges require at least one teacher and one counselor letter. If you are given the opportunity to submit more letters, it wouldn't hurt to include letters from people in leadership positions such as school administrators or leaders of organizations in which you have been an active participant.
TIP TWO: Provide your resume and an outline
This is your opportunity to influence the structure and content of your letter. Provide each recommender with your resume and an outline of what you want them to write about. Be sure to emphasize your personal connection with them. Show them how much you value their impact on you by highlighting important skills that you may have learned from them. By providing them with the important content, you will end up with the letter of recommendation that you want and need!
TIP THREE: Timing is everything
Don't expect that people have time to drop everything to finish your letter today. If possible, allow at least a few weeks for people to write a quality letter. If the deadline is approaching and you think they may have forgotten about it, a gentle reminder is ok. Maybe even offer additional information, or ask them if they need help or have any questions about your resume. Just keep in mind that they are doing you a huge favor!
TIP FOUR: Make it an easy process
In addition to supplying your resume and outline, make sure to provide detailed instructions on how to submit the recommendation. Most recommendation letters these days are submitted online, but some are still required to be mailed in. If the recommender must mail in your recommendation, provide them with a pre-addressed, stamped envelope along with the rest of the paperwork. After you receive confirmation that the letter has been submitted, be sure to write a handwritten letter of thanks to the recommender. This will show them that you appreciate the time they took out of their busy schedule to help you. As we stated earlier, relationships are important. You never know how this small gesture might help you again in the future!
Karl Lenss is the managing director of Academic Angle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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