It’s essential for a college application to be accompanied by an impressive recommendation letter. The student who requires an impressive letter should not take it lightly. He or she needs to think carefully about whom they will ask to write the letter or letters. This usually means to plan ahead about when and where to approach the recommendation writer and about how to ask. It’s not considered wise for students to causally ask a teacher when they meet them in the hallway.
Some tips a student should think about before requesting a letter of recommendation for college entrance:
• Give the recommender enough time to write a good letter
• Give a sample of their resume
• Give their goals and objectives
• Give some background about the school to which the student is applying
• Give a sample of the type of letter of recommendation the student wants
It requires considerable effort for a professor or supervisor to write a really good letter of recommendation, so the student should choose someone who knows them well. For example, a teacher who knows the student well and has helped the student study or understand subjects may know the student better than one of his or her own teachers. A letter of recommendation is only taken seriously by the reader if it is clear that the writer knows what he or she is talking about. A vague or generic letter that praises the student will not be considered credible even if it is written by the head of the institution.
Most teachers or supervisors receive many requests for recommendation letters, so it is considered wise to ask well in advance of any application deadline. Since a good letter needs effort, it shouldn’t be written in a hurry. The writer may need to gather information about the student. If it doesn’t look like the letter may be ready in time, the student can always send a polite reminder as the deadline approaches.
A student needs to ask for a letter of recommendation personally. It’s not sufficient to send an email, voice mail or text. A face-to-face request will send the message that this letter is extremely important for the student, and also gives the student a chance to remind the teacher about the student’s past accomplishments. At this time, the student can give the teacher a writing sample or list of accomplishments as well as his or her goals, so the teacher is aware of the student’s future plans. For example, if the student is going for an environmental degree, the recommendation letter writer will not list the student’s accomplishments in English literature.
Many college applications require recommendation letters to be written in a particular form. The student should provide the teacher with any material he or she may need such as forms, stamped and addressed envelopes of the appropriate size and a list of the schools to which the student is applying. It is also considered wise for the student to provide the teacher with a USB stick, so the student will have a copy of the letter in case it gets lost in the mail.
According to federal law, a student has the right to read their letters of recommendation. However, it is considered wise to waive that right. There may be a form with the application that allows the student to waive that right. The reason this is considered a good thing to do is because it gives the teacher more scope for writing a candid letter. This carries more weight with the admissions board because teachers are more comfortable writing a sincere and truthful letter if the student will not read it. If the student is afraid that the letter may contain some negative information or not do his or her accomplishments justice, they should not be asking that teacher for a recommendation letter.
With the overwhelming work required for college admission applications, the student may lose confidence if he or she doesn’t get a requested letter in a timely fashion. The student should remember that teachers may be asked for many such letters and need gentle reminders every week or so before the deadline.
Once the letter has been written and sent, the student should write a thank-you note to the teacher. This should be done within two weeks after the letter was sent, and the student need not wait until the college responds.
Letters of recommendation for college entrance are very important for most applicants. They may even be the basis for the admission interview or play a crucial part in whether the student gains acceptance or not. For this reason, students should select their recommendation letter writers very carefully, request the letter in person, give the teacher enough information to write a good letter and send a thank-you note soon after the application is sent.
By Andre Bradley