College Admission Recommendation Letters

Top Tips for College Admission Recommendation Letters

Courses, grades, standardized tests tell a lot about the ability to succeed in college. But college admission recommendation letters offer an objective, holistic perspective about a student, particularly one applying to a small-to-medium-size college. While a student approaches is important, it is crucial to choose someone who can honestly attest to a student’s positive performance.

College Admission Recommendation Letters

As a student drills down to the two or three potential choices, make sure to have updated, current resumes to share. In some instances, high schools request specific forms. Using online tools such as Naviance to be completed by the student to facilitate the teacher letter.

Share a personal story your teacher can use in their letter

A big help can be a brief conversation that updates your teacher on background, interests, and goals in college and career. As importantly, personal stories go a long way to intrigue a college. Sometimes, letters can come off as formal or stuffy. Discuss with your letter writer some classroom instance that demonstrate qualities as dedication and perseverance in the face of adversity.

In general, two letters of recommendation are allowed. Some colleges such as Penn State do not require any letters of recommendation; many allow up to three or more (e.g., Oberlin or Haverford), and the military schools such as the Air Force Academy want five (one of which would be from a congressman).

Teachers and a counselor letter are the most commonly sought by colleges.


Counselor college admissions recommendation letter helps position standing

Hopefully, the counselor’s letter is designed to highlight a student’s abilities.  Also, sharing the academic profile of the particular graduating class and indicating how the student compares with peers. The letter may explain any special circumstances and the growth and maturity of a student, while also providing additional data beyond transcripts. They also can provide an overview of course difficulty and activities outside the classroom. An anecdote about the quality of thinking goes a long way with colleges.

But honestly, who knows the student best: Teachers who watch a student grow as a person over a year or more provide real insight. While counselors may touch on some specifics, it is generally the teacher who can speak to skills and strengths, persistence and consistency, motivation and character. Choose a teacher from a core area such as math, science, English or social studies, but better would be one from those disciplines in the more challenging junior or senior year. So, while a student may not have much control over a counselor, the choice of a teacher to write a college admissions recommendation letter is important to offer an honest appraisal of a student’s academic performance, intellectual promise, and participation in school activities. 


Others in your life to consider

But recommendations may not end there. There are potential recommendations from a wide range of additional areas. Consider someone who knows you well from your church. Consider an employer or coach, and perhaps an internship supervisor. They can speak to your passions and assorted subjective skill sets.

Finally, show some respect for busy teachers or other sources. Understand that you are asking a big favor, not expecting something owed. Contribution of a sterling college admissions recommendation letter requires a follow-up. Demonstrating your appreciation in a thank you note.