How to Choose the Right Person to Write Your College Recommendation
Here’s how to get the best college recommendation letters from teachers, coaches, and extracurricular leaders.
When you’re writing your essay prompts, you are answering questions based on your individual experiences – conversely, a recommendation is someone else writing about you from an outside perspective. As such, colleges use recommendations as a way to get a different perspective on you and to paint a more vivid picture of your application.
Hopefully, prior to junior and senior year, you’ve started to establish some longer-term relationships with your teachers or your extracurricular activity leaders. The people who can best write about you are the people who have interacted with you over a long period of time and have seen you outside of an academic or extracurricular setting.
Here are some points to remember when asking for recommendations:
Teachers – Hopefully, the teacher you ask to write a recommendation for you will have known you for more than just the class you had together. Ideally, you’ve done exceptionally well in his or her class to the point where you’re one of the more memorable students.
If the teacher is an alumni of the school you’re applying to or somewhere similar, even better! In general, the better and longer your relationship with the teacher, the better he/she will be able to write about you in a way that makes you stand out to a college.
Sport Coaches – A coach may have worked with you for longer than teachers have, and in a different context. If you’ve done extremely well at your sport, your coach could be one of your biggest allies, especially if you’re planning on continuing with the sport at the collegiate level. Often, coaches will have a very good read on which schools have good programs for your sport and will have contacts at those schools as well.
Extracurricular Leaders – Sometimes teachers lead the extracurricular programs. If so, the teacher will likely have worked with you both inside and outside the classroom, and can speak to your strengths and how you will add to a college’s community.
Depending on how far in advance you plan, you may even think about securing an internship with a graduate of your target school. If you build a relationship in advance, you’ll be in a position to get a stellar recommendation on top of receiving a valuable work experience!
Obviously, you want whoever you choose for your recommendation to write about you in a way that will maximize your chances of standing out to the application readers – so if you haven’t built up a good relationship with the person, you may want to think about asking someone else. For example, if one of your teachers graduated from your dream school, but you didn’t perform well in the class, that teacher may not be the best choice.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you may not be able to see your own recommendation since schools can request recommendations to be sent directly to them, so be absolutely sure that the person you pick will portray you in the most positive light!
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