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Advice for Students

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When selecting a teacher to write a recommendation letter, make sure it is someone who not only knows you well but also is familiar with your academic record. In addition, consider the kind of program or university to which you are applying. Do you intend to major in Engineering, History, or Biology? Choose recommenders who perhaps teach the field you wish to major in.

Before meeting with your chosen recommender, complete some research on the universities to which you are applying. Consider how you might tailor your application to meet the particular mission statement of College X. What characteristics, qualifications, or successes might your recommender emphasize in their letter of recommendation? For example, College X might be interested in learning about your leadership abilities. What examples can your recommender provide in their letter?

A few items you should provide your recommender:

  • A resume detailing your extracurricular activities and accomplishments
  • A short self-reflective paragraph about your qualifications for higher education.
  • Some college applications have an additional form for your recommenders, often with specific instructions about what to include in the letter.
  • Finally, provide an envelope with a stamp and the address for the recipient of recommendation letters (“The Letter of Recommendation”).

When requesting a letter of recommendation, remember that your teachers are not obligated to say yes. While they might wish to help you build your college application, they may have demands on their time that preclude writing you a letter of recommendation.

If you can, meet with the teacher or guidance counselor in person; a face-to-face meeting will allow both of you to ask questions about the letter writing process and to determine each other’s expectations for the letter and your application as a whole.

If you must send an email because either you or your recommender is out of town, make sure that your wording is careful and courteous. Remember, you want them to write a positive and professional recommendation letter. You, in turn, should strive for professionalism in your interactions with your teachers and guidance counselors.

After you have submitted your college applications, remember to send thank you letters to all of your recommenders.

Works Consulted

Grote, Christopher L., Allyson Haut, and William N. Robiner. “Disclosure of Negative Information in Letters of Recommendation: Writer’s Intentions and Readers’ Experiences.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 32.6 (2001): 655-661. Print.

Heinz, Catherine. “RE: Questions about FERPA and Recommendation Letters.” Message to the author. 25 June 2013. E-mail.

Kelley, Kristi W. et al. “Writing letters of recommendation: Where should you start?” New Practitioners Forum Vol. 69 (2012):563-565. Print.

“The Letter of Recommendation.” The Princeton Review, 2013 Web. 25 June 2013.

McBride, Angela Barron and Kim Brian Lovejoy. “Requesting and Writing Effective Letters of Recommendation: Some Guidelines for Candidates and Sponsors.” Educational Innovations 34.2 (1995): 95-96. Print.

Miller, Rodney K. and Gregory J. Van Rybroek. “Internship Letters of Recommendation: Where Are the Other 90%?” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 19.1 (1988): 115-117. Print.

Range, Lillian M. et al. “Letters of Recommendation: Perspectives, Recommendations, and Ethics.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 22.5 (1991): 389-392. Print.

Schall, Joe. “The Ethics of Writing Recommendation Letters.” Academe 92.3 (2006): 41-44. Print.

Toglia, Thomas V. “Writing Recommendation Letters—without the stress.”, March 2004. Web.