UFit College Consulting
Are Letters of Recommendation an Important Part of the College Application?
Many colleges require students to submit letters of recommendation from their high school counselor and two teachers. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that admissions officers won’t look at these letters or that providing them do nothing more than check a box. If a college wants you to submit these letters, it is because they use them in their holistic evaluation of your application. In fact, admissions officers say that in the absence of test scores, the letters of recommendation have become an increasingly important factor in their overall evaluation of you as a student and a person.
Who Should Write the Letters of Recommendation?
Apart from the required letter of recommendation from the high school counselor, students need two recommendations from teachers. Ideally, you should ask your junior year core subject teachers (English, Math, Science, Foreign Language, or Social Studies). Ask teachers you feel know you well, you have a rapport with, and in whose classes you did well. If you are going to be pursuing a STEM major in college, make sure you ask at least one math or science teacher to write your recommendation. Similarly, if you will be studying humanities in college, ask an English or social studies teacher to write one of your recommendations. If you will be studying fine arts or performing arts, those majors may have a supplemental application that requires an additional recommendation from a teacher or mentor who knows you and your artistic endeavors.
In addition to your academic recommendations, some colleges will allow you to submit additional letters of recommendation. If you have had a job or internship, do community service work, or are involved in any social, religious, or political organizations, you should consider asking your boss, supervisor, mentor, or peer leader to write you a recommendation letter. These letters can add dimension to your application and provide further evidence of character, responsibility, and leadership.
When Should You Ask for Letters of Recommendation?
The ideal time to ask your counselor, teachers, and others to write your recommendation letters is in the spring of your junior year. Don’t wait too long, as some teachers have to limit how many letters they are willing to write, and you are not going to be the only one asking this of them. Some teachers like to write these letters over the summer when they are less busy, so if you are a junior and haven’t asked your teachers yet, do it as soon as possible!
Be mindful that teachers are not required to provide letters of recommendation, so be respectful and courteous when making these requests. If it makes sense, set up a virtual call or an in-person meeting to discuss what you would like them to highlight in your recommendation. Such a meeting will go a long way in securing a strong letter of recommendation. It may also make sense for you to create a resume that you can share with your teachers. Don’t forget to thank your recommenders after the application process is complete with a nice handwritten note.
What Should You Ask Your Recommenders to Write About You?
For many of you, your counselors and teachers don’t really know you that well and because of Covid, they may not have even taught you in person this past year. Therefore, it is your job to provide them with the information they need to know in order to paint you in the best light possible. Luckily, this also provides an amazing opportunity for you to determine what it is you want admissions officers to know about you. For some of the most competitive schools, getting a resounding recommendation letter that states that you were “one of the best” students the teacher has ever taught or a sentiment along those lines, will serve as a differentiator for you as an applicant.
Here are some examples of information you can provide to help your counselor, teachers, and others write a positive, anecdote-filled letter that goes straight to the college admissions officer who reads your college application: