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Letters of Recommendation for College

letters of recommendation

Your college applications usually require one or more letters of recommendation from a high school teacher or counselor.

Let’s take a look at why letters of recommendation matter and how to go about getting them:

  1. Colleges use these to supplement the rest of your application.  Good letters of recommendation (LOR) will strengthen your application. Specifically, the letter should support and reinforce that you can handle college-level coursework in your chosen field.
  2. Determine 3 or more teachers who know you the best.
  3. Be sure that at least one of your letters of recommendation is from a teacher in your core academic subjects (English, science, social science, math). Another should be a teacher in a subject or elective that you intend to major in (foreign language, music, art, etc.) Others may be coaches or teachers in electives.  If you request only one or two letters of recommendation, be sure that it is from a core academic subject that also reflects your ability and progress in your intended major (for example, if you plan to major in engineering, a math or physics teacher would be best; if you hope to go “pre-med,” a biology or chemistry teacher is good.
  4. It is a good idea to ask the teachers before the end of your junior year. This will give them the opportunity to write it in the summer. Also, you’ll be at the top of their list (or at least first in line).
  5. Write a bit about yourself, the schools, major, etc you may be considering. Remind them briefly about your accomplishments and activities so they can remember more about you. A paragraph or just a few lines is fine.  For letters of recommendation from a non-teacher (i.e., from an employer or volunteer supervisor), list something that you’ve contributed to the “job” or something that you’re proud of or why you’ve enjoyed that experience. This will help them write a letter with some specifics about you.
  6. BE SURE to write a thank you note to each person who wrote your  letters of recommendation. Chuck Cohn from Tutoring Examiner recommends you write two!  It is best to do this immediately, but surely by the end of the fall semester
  7. Find out from your guidance office the method to submit your letters of recommendation.
  8. Follow up with the guidance office a couple of weeks later to be sure the letters of recommendation were submitted. If not, gently and respectfully remind your teacher.

Want to know more about what value your letters of recommendation have?  Contact an academic coach at My College Planning Team or click here to schedule a complimentary consultation. We’ll be happy to help!

Stephanie Kennedy

Stephanie Kennedy is president of Kennedy Educational Services and co-founder of My College Planning Team. Stephanie holds a Masters in Counseling and College Student Development. A former admissions counselor, she has read hundreds of college applications and assisted thousands of students in their college adjustment and educational path. With her hands-on perspective, she guides students and families in a successful college search that goes far beyond the acceptance letter.

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