...from GuidedPath Edge Guru

What are the three steps to outstanding recommendations?

Edge Tip:

The buzz around school right now is all about recommendations.  How do you get the best recommendations for your college applications?  Here are 3 steps to outstanding recommendations:

1.  Get Ready.

Before you start asking teachers, counselor or others for a letter of recommendation, do your homework. It will pay off for you in the end with outstanding recommendations.

  • Focus on familiarity. Make of list of teachers who know you well to ask to write recommendations. Teachers you had in math, science or other core academic subjects more than once make ideal people to ask for letters of recommendations.
  • Check in with your school.  Many schools have deadlines and requirements for submitting letters of recommendations. Put dates in your calendar and stick to them.
  • Go for the maximum.  The Common App and other systems list how many letters of recommendation are required.  They also give you a number of how many recommendations are allowed.  Plan to request the maximum number.
  • Create a Recommendation Calendar. Check the dates your college applications are due, and work backwards. Add all dates to your calendar.
      • Ask a teacher at least 4-6 weeks before your applications are due for a recommendation.  
      • Plan for the recommendations to be done 2-4 weeks before your application is due.
      • If you are doing early applications, you need to be doing recommendations in September or October.
  • Update your resume. Give teachers/counselors your resume or brag sheet.  This gives them information to use when writing about yourself.
  • Role of Recommendations. Download this document  to give to teachers/counselors. It explains what colleges are looking for in recommendations and what to write in a letter of recommendation.


2. Take Action.

Use this checklist to organize your recommendation requests to your teachers. Put the following items together in a large 10X13 envelope and hand to each teacher/counselor you are requesting a letter from:

  • Cover letter.  Personal letter explaining the purpose of the recommendation (for scholarships, admissions or special programs).  Include dates you need recommendations completed by. Be sure to sign the letter.
  • Resume.  List of all your activities through high school.
  • Role of Recommendations.  Provide the copies of The Role of Recommendations to teachers/counselors.


3. Follow up.

 Follow this recommendation checklist after you have requested letters of recommendation:

  • Check progress.  The Common Application, Universal College App and others allow you to track the progress of your application, including recommendations. Use this to view when recommendations are uploaded.
  • Gently remind. Teachers often appreciate a gentle reminder about upcoming due dates. You want to be sure your recommendations are submitted on time.
  • Write a thank you.  Make a teachers/counselors day with a personalized, handwritten note thanking them for their assistance.

You will receive strong and substantial recommendations if, when requesting a letter of recommendation you follow these steps!

Your Edge:

Guidedpath Edge provides several tools to help you obtain outstanding recommendations.

  • Update activities list in GuidedPath.
  • Use the Recommendations Survey to list your recommenders
  • Use application dates in your Plans to determine due dates of recommendations.
  • View Additional information on school profile to see how many letters of recommendation are required.

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