How Important are Letters of Recommendation for College?

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How important are letters of recommendation for colleges? Are you concerned with how many letters you need? We will help you to understand all that and then some.

Recommendations are a great way for others to provide examples of your work ability, character and accomplishments. However, getting a great recommendation letter is not easy. We will help you understand the purpose behind your recommendation letter, how you should go about asking for it and what information should be included. Keep reading to find all of that and more.

What is the Purpose of a Letter of Recommendation for College?What is the Purpose of a Letter of Recommendation for College?

A letter of recommendation is meant to complement the rest of your college application. It provides a university’s admission team with information on the person behind the GPA. It also gives them a view of your impact on the people around you. Generally, your letters will come from teachers or guidance counsellors and reflect your impact on your school environment.

Though letters of recommendation serve a purpose, another question may be on your mind. Do you need letters of recommendation for college? The answer to this question is simple: No, you do not. However, that depends on where you are applying to, if you are looking to get aid or scholarships and what type of university you are applying to.

Though it may be hard to find schools where they are not needed, they do exist. Schools like Florida State, Clemson or even Delaware State University do not require students to submit letters of recommendation.

Why is a Letter of Recommendation Important in College Applications?

Why is a Letter of Recommendation Important in College Applications?

Contrary to popular belief, the letter of recommendation for college students serves several purposes. A letter of recommendation brings the student alive to the admission team. It gives them a view of the student from someone else’s eyes. Recommendations can also put hard academic periods into context. Though this is not something that high-achieving students may think about, letters of recommendation can aid in explaining unfortunate circumstances, poor test scores or several other things. For example, your guidance counsellor may have enough insight into your home and school life to explain that someone may be high-performing. Still, the environment that they live in has impacted their academic track record.

Whom to Ask for Letters of Recommendation?

Whom to Ask for Letters of Recommendation?

As a student, it is easy to think that all teachers have your best interest at heart and that you can ask almost any of your teachers for a recommendation, but that is not always true. You put a lot of thought into selecting who should write your college recommendation letters, as you want to ensure that the reader will get to see the best versions of you from your letter, even if it is from someone else’s eyes.

Cultivate your relationships with faculty

Your relationships with your faculty generally begin the moment you step foot into your high school. It is important that you also place an emphasis on keeping in contact and taking classes with teachers who you know will advocate for you as much as you advocate for yourself. However, if you are ready to make that selection, we hope that it is something you have been doing.

Think about who you will ask early

Once you start thinking about the colleges you want to apply to, you should also start thinking about who your recommenders will be. This is important because if you want the best recommendations, the people you ask will need the context to write them and the time as well.

Your selection will generally begin in your junior or senior years, as this is likely when you begin your college application journey. It may seem logical to pick the teachers or staff you are closest to, but that is not always the best idea. For example, if the teacher who knows you best Is the art teacher and you’re looking to major in chemistry, there may be a disconnect.

Prioritize recommenders who align with your major

Prioritize getting recommendations from teachers that would align the best with your major. However, once your major has been considered, looking for individuals who can write the strongest letter and speak the best to your character would be best.

How to Request for a Letter of Recommendation?

How to Request for a Letter of Recommendation?

There are several things you should take into account when requesting a letter of recommendation from someone. These things include the time they will have to write the letter, how well they feel they can execute it, and any additional logistics regarding the letter. With all that in mind, this should not be taken lightly or requested informally.

You should never send a text or walk up to someone and informally ask for a letter and expect it to be done. Though you may start off with an initial conversation, there are several pieces of information that you should provide to the person writing the recommendation. Use the tips below to help you understand how to request your letter.

Give your recommender time to produce a great letter

Never put your selected individual in a time crunch. Though you may be anxious to complete the letter, the individual you are asking also has a life outside the classroom that you should be mindful of.

Provide a resume and additional information

When requesting your letter. However, it would be best if you always started with a conversation; an email is an essential follow-up so that you can provide all of the details needed for the individual to write the letter successfully.

Do not submit more letters than needed

Colleges will provide you with the number of recommendation letters you need. Never exceed the recommended number of letters, as you do not want to ruin your chances of admission before your letters are read.

Always ask first

One thing you should always do before submitting a teacher or counsellor’s email address for a recommendation letter is ask. The first step to a successful letter is always a conversation. This gives the reviewers time to start thinking about what they will write and alerts them to be on the lookout for the university’s email.

Don’t forget to follow up

Regardless of how responsible your recommender is, you should always remember to follow up. Following up not only demonstrates your responsibility but also shows that you are invested in your application process.

Pay attention to the signs

If your recommender shows any hesitation in writing your letter, pay attention to it. You always want someone who feels confident enough to write a great letter. Otherwise, there is a chance that your letter will be mediocre and not allow you the results you want.

Use a template when asking for multiple letters

If you need multiple letters, creating a template for yourself would be a great idea. Your template should include not only the ask but any supplemental info that may be useful while they write.

Provide submission instructions

If you are applying to multiple schools with different application methods, make sure you have clearly outlined how your reviewer should submit their letter of recommendation. These letters should always remain confidential and not be seen by you. If you are to deliver a physical recommendation, the envelope should be sealed before receiving it.

What Should Be Included in a College Recommendation Letter?

What Should Be Included in a College Recommendation Letter?

Your college recommendation letter is a representative of you. With that in mind, there are several things that your letter should include. These things will allow the admissions team to get to know you better and make a more informed decision.

If someone is writing a letter of recommendation for you, they should explain how well they know you and the extent of your personal relationship. This gives the reviewer a baseline of the relationship. In addition to this information, the reviewer should consider the recommendation and provide examples of the student’s behavior supporting the prompt.

The information in the recommendation letter should be unique and purely aligned with the student. The information that the reviewer includes should not be a regurgitation of previously mentioned information. It should give reviewers something they won’t receive from anyone else.

Several characteristics would also be great to include in your recommendation. The reviewer should speak to your dependability, work ethic and how they see you excelling. Teachers should call out your leadership potential and aptitude for various scenarios.

How Many Letters of Recommendation is Enough for College?

How Many Letters of Recommendation is Enough for College?

How many letters of recommendation you need depends on what institution you are applying to. However, for most colleges, you will generally need between one and three letters. This includes one from a guidance counsellor and two from teachers. Having some individuals on standby to ask if you need more would make sense but getting at least three would be standard. If you are applying to different schools with different majors, getting different recommendation letters that will better fit your intention is a good idea. For example, your science teacher may not be the best recommender for your prospective performing arts degree.

Wrapping Things Up: How Important are Letters of Recommendation for College?

Letters of recommendation are extremely important when applying to college. Though there are some schools where recommendation letters are unnecessary, like Florida State University, they can be a great way for college admissions counsellors to get to know you and students like you.

To ensure you get a great recommendation, you should start each request verbally and give your reviewer the time needed to make a great letter. If they are able to speak to your personal character, your work ethic and their relationship with you, there is no doubt that you will have a great letter ready for whatever institution you provide it to.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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