Word of the Day Wednesday: Letters of Recommendation
Each Wednesday, MEFA features a Word of the Day, where we highlight a word (or sometimes a phrase) related to the college planning process. This month, we're focusing on vocabulary related to college admissions. The college admissions process is a bit like a puzzle, and you'll have to stay organized and motivated to fit all of the pieces together. Read on to learn about an important piece of the puzzle.
Today's Word of the Day is: Letters of Recommendation.
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 to learn more about a student as an individual, beyond the grades and test scores. Most college applications require one or more letters of recommendation, and provide guidelines as to who can write the recommendation and how it should be structured.
Students are responsible for asking their teachers and counselors to write recommendations, and it's both helpful and courteous to make these requests as early as possible (read: spring of junior year). 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 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 teachers from your junior year, 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 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.