Understanding Letters of Recommendation

December 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Application Process

Increasingly, letters of recommendation are the make or break element of the application.  Many students and family underestimate the importance of receiving the “right” kind of recommendations.  Admissions staff read recommendations very thoroughly, looking for hints or code words that will lead to insight about an applicant. To ensure that you receive helpful, detailed recommendations, you need to take the following steps:

Choose your recommend-ers carefully– Ask yourself the following: Is this teacher relevant to my college course of study? Will this teacher take the time to have a conversation about my experiences, prospective colleges, prospective paths of study?  Am I confident that he/she will write a detailed, honest account of my growth and my strengths and weaknesses? For counselors, you usually don’t have a choice, but if you are able to choose amongst several counselors, the above questions are equally relevant.

Have a 10 minute “pitchconversation– Again the theme here is detail.  Help your teacher/counselor write a good recommendation by talking with them about your important experiences, what you’d like to study, what is unique about you, why you have chosen the colleges that you are applying to, and broad career plans. If you have faced extenuating circumstances that negatively affected your performance or overcome large personal or academic challenges, these must be communicated to recommend-ers. These “pitch” conversations will make it easy for your recommend-er to write a great recommendation.

Prepare a resume– Most teachers and counselors don’t know their students outside of class.  In order to make the job of recommending you easier and for better recommendations, give them a resume which includes your high school extra-curricular experiences (5 most important), awards, your class rank, GPA, SAT/ACT score, prospective major, and prospective colleges. Further, most recommend-ers will forget the important details from the pitch conversation, so a written summary makes for a good reminder about your particular details.


One Response to “Understanding Letters of Recommendation”

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