Getting Letters of Recommendation

An important part of the college application process, letters of recommendation are short statements written by teachers or counselors on behalf of student applicants. They provide insight into a student's academic work and character, and help admissions committees learn more about a student as an individual, beyond the grades and test scores. Most colleges require one or more letters of recommendation, and provide guidelines as to who can write the recommendation(s), and how each one should be structured.

When determining who to ask to write their letters of recommendation, it's both helpful and courteous for students to make these requests as early as possible. We've put together some tips for students to keep in mind throughout the process:

    • Match the request. If a college asks for two letters of recommendation, don't send nine. Even if all nine are glowing. Admissions counselors are busy people.

    • Request letters from people who know you. Think about the teachers who know your academic strengths and abilities best. You'll want someone who can speak to your participation in class and your work ethic. Most colleges will advise asking for letters from your junior year teachers, as they most recently taught you for a full academic year.

    • Follow the rules. Does your high school have policies on how and when to request letters of recommendation? Is there a specific application or form to complete or an online account to update? Make sure you comply with all guidelines.

    • Be thankful. Be sure to write a thank you note (with an actual pen and paper!) for each teacher or counselor who took the time to write you a recommendation. Showing appreciation is courteous and classy.

Our How to Apply to College page offers further advice on letters of recommendation (as well as many other resources to assist in the college application process). Reference it anytime.