Letters of Recommendation that make a difference

Post By: COYD Staff

There is only one place on a college application where someone other than you is speaking to the admissions officer and that is in the letters of recommendation. However, even though you are not the one writing the letters, you do have control over what is written about you. Below are a few tips on how to get a letter of recommendation that will truly work in your favor.

During your high school career, you should:

1. Go to Office Hours (“Tutorial”)

….or whatever your high school calls it. Office Hours is a time where the teacher is available for any questions regarding homework or the course work in general. Some teachers have this time before school starts, others during lunch, and others after school. Find out what time your teacher has office hours and make sure to visit the teacher from time to time, even if you are not having trouble with your homework. This one on one time is crucial to building a relationship with that teacher.

2. Keep in mind the things that teachers will be asked to evaluate you on.

On the Common App there is a section titled Ratings. I’m using the Common App as an example because it is one of the largest undergraduate college admission applications that applicants may use to apply to any of the 415 member colleges and universities. It is good to know what teachers will be asked to rate you on when you are going through your high school career. Some students think that academic achievement is the only important factor in a college application but judging from the list below, academic achievement is only one of the many factors that colleges look for in an applicant.

Academic achievement
Intellectual promise
Quality of writing
Creative, original thought
Productive class discussion
Respect accorded by faculty
Disciplined work habits
Reaction to setbacks
Concern for others
Initiative, independence

3. Think of a list of teachers you would want to write your recommendation

No matter how hard you work, how many times you go to Office Hours, you still might not be able to make a true connection with a certain teacher. At the end of the day, humans are humans and no matter what you do, sometimes a connection cannot be made. Don’t beat yourself over that one teacher and move on. Every student has several teachers throughout their high school career. Don’t take it personal if one teacher doesn’t like you, there are several others that will:).

During your senior year, you should:

1. Give them plenty of time to write the recommendation

Teachers are busy and your recommendation is probably not the only one that they were asked to write. So be respectful and give them plenty of time to write your recommendation. Also, clearly state when the letter is due on a post it or thank you letter when you give them the Teacher Evaluation form.

2. Provide them with a “brag sheet”

After the Ratings portion of the Teacher Evaluation/Recommendation, there is an area where the teacher can write whatever they want about the student. The Common Application specifically states “We welcome information that will help us to differentiate this student from others”. Most likely, this teacher is not only writing your recommendation but several others. Even if you have created a strong relationship with this faculty over your high school career, make sure you save your teacher as much time as possible by providing them with their very own “cheat sheet”. If you give them a list of your high school extracurriculars and leadership and volunteer activities, this will help your teacher easily write a letter of recommendation and make it as tailored as possible so that he/she will truly be able to differentiate you from other students.



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