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Tips for College Letters of Recommendation

As colleges try to assess your abilities, work ethic, and personality, they rely on the perspectives of your teachers, counselors, and coaches. That's why college letters of recommendation are an important part of the college application process. 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. We've put together some important tips on college recommendation letters below.

  1. Ask early. It's both helpful and courteous to make these requests as early as possible, ideally during the end of your junior year. This shows personal responsibility on your part, and gives those you ask plenty of time to plan and write a thoughtful letter.
  2. Share your interests. Explain to your recommenders what you plan to study in college. This information can help them highlight qualities that you want to emphasize in your college applications.
  3. Meet (don't exceed) the requirement. If a college asks for two letters of recommendation, only send two. You'll want to show that you can read and follow directions, and that you respect the time of the admissions staff reviewing your application.
  4. Ask people who know you well. Think about the teachers who are familiar with your academic strengths and abilities, and have taught you for a full academic year. You'll want someone who can speak to your participation in class and your work ethic, as well as your ability to learn the subject matter. In most cases, teachers from your junior year core subjects are best.
  5. Follow the rules. Does your high school have a policy on how and when to request college 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.
  6. Show gratitude. Send a (written) thank you note to everyone who took the time to write you college recommendation letters. Showing appreciation is courteous and confirms your upstanding character.
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