Boost Your Admission Chances with a Great Letter of Recommendation

Now for the part of your college application that isn’t written by you: your letter of recommendation. However, just because you’re not responsible for it, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Here are some tips to make sure you’re getting a letter of recommendation that will make a lasting impression on admissions officers.

Stay on Top of the Game

As a high school student, you’re bound to be busy, but organization is essential when college applications and deadlines start rolling in. Timing is everything when you have to start sending out your recommendation letters. A good tip to stay organized is to keep a chart or spreadsheet of all your prospective schools listing the following key information:

  • Application deadlines and fees.
  • Application requirements (i.e. standardized testing needed such as the ACT or SAT, transcripts, interview requirements, essays, and letters of recommendation).
  • Specifics about what you will need in your letters of recommendation such as who is writing them and the deadlines.

Who Should Recommend You?

Sometimes deciding who to ask to write your recommendation letter can be the hardest part. Figuring out who knows your talents and abilities as well as your personality best can be a tough call. Simply put: choose adults who know you best. Teachers are the best resources to comment about your academic skills. Coaches, counselors, and community and church leaders are good sources to comment about your talents and skill sets. These are the people who know you in ways the admissions officers don’t. They’ve seen you learn, they’ve seen you grow, and they’ve seen you succeed.

Be sure to read the requirements pertaining to recommendation letters, as some schools do require more than one letter of recommendation. And, never—in any circumstance—ask a family member to write your letter of recommendation, as their opinions will most often be biased.

Give Enough Time

As stated earlier, timing is everything when it comes to asking for a letter of recommendation. Give your writers plenty of time to develop their letters; they will need time to build up their ideas and write a thoughtful, meaningful letter.

Start a list at the beginning of your senior year of who you would ideally like to write a recommendation letter for you. Once you have your list narrowed down, give your chosen writers at least two months to prepare their letters. When asking for a letter of recommendation, give your writer some insight on the school you are applying to and let them know exactly why you want to attend that particular institution. Take it one step further and give your writer a viewbook about the school so they can read up on the school in their spare time.

Make sure your writers have all of the materials they need in order to compose a recommendation letter, including:

  • Deadline information.
  • Your full name, address, e-mail, and telephone number.
  • Two copies of any forms they need to fill out (one copy to be used as a rough draft, and one to be used as a final draft).
  • The name and address of the institution you are applying to, along with a copy of your completed essay and application. Provide a stamped, addressed envelope for their convenience.
  • Information about the school (e.g., viewbook).
  • A copy of your résumé, activities, accomplishments, and achievements.

Last Steps

Remember that your writers are doing you a favor. Show your gratitude by writing them a thank you note.

By being organized and prepared you’ll make it a lot easier for writers to submit a letter of recommendation—and you’ll also make the process less hectic for yourself.


This article was written by Hannah Purnell

Hannah Purnell is a staff writer for Hannah writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.

1 Comment

  1. Daniela Mendía

    If a letter of recommendation is written by a family member, is it OK to send it? Or will I be reprimanded for doing so by the college? What I want to know is if it is actually okay to send one, but not recommended, or if it’s not okay to send one at all?

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