3 Tips to Get a Strong Letter of Recommendation for College
Let’s be honest -- in the college admissions process, your GPA is not the only thing that matters. Letters of recommendation can make or break your application, as they are one of the few ways to learn more about who you are beyond your test scores. This means that getting strong letters of recommendation from teachers and counselors is essential if you want to stand out among other applicants. While many students think that they have no control over this piece, because they can’t see the recommendation before its submitted, there are steps you can take to ensure you get a strong letter.
Ask Teachers that Know You
When you are deciding who to ask for a letter of recommendation for college, you should ask teachers who know you well. This does not have to be the teacher who has given you the highest grade (although it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask them as well). The teacher who knows you well can be someone who has seen you in a leadership position, who has seen you collaborate with your peers, or who has seen grow and stretch beyond your comfort zone. Additionally, the teachers who know your learning style and your strengths and weaknesses will be able to provide a more thorough and accurate letter.
Ask Early (at least 1 month before the deadline)
One of the biggest mistakes students make when they are asking teachers for a letter of recommendation is doing so too close to the deadline. This can make it more difficult for the teacher to write your letter, as they may already have many letters they already need to write, so they might rush through yours.
The best thing you can do when asking a teacher for a letter of recommendation is ask them early. This will give the teacher enough time to look back on your strengths and growth, write the letter, and have it proofread. It is important to remember that the letter of recommendation is a bit different from other parts of the application where the deadline is strict and less forgiving. If you are applying for early admission, you would want to ask the teacher in the spring of your junior year or as soon as you get back to school your senior year.
Provide Examples of Your Strengths to Include
Often, teachers are asked to include a certain amount of anecdotes in their letters of recommendation. However, with so many students, they may not remember what to write. That’s why providing them with a “brag sheet” that has detailed examples of characteristics you want highlighted in your recommendation will make it easier for the teacher to write the letter, as he or she will have examples to refer to. These examples can be a mix of classroom and outside of school experiences.
Colleges care about more than your GPA, and letters of recommendation are a great way for teachers to get to know you better. Getting a strong letter is all about asking the right people at the right time. Ask teachers who know you well and have seen you in a wide variety of situations, and provide them with examples of your strengths to include. Doing so will give your recommenders a better idea of who you are and make it more likely that they’ll write a strong letter on your behalf.