As your student starts applying to colleges, they may be asked to provide letters of recommendation. Similar to professional references for a job application, a letter of recommendation gives an outsider’s perspective of your student’s work ethic and ability to do well in college, and it’s an aspect of many college applications.
Your student should ask for recommendation letters from people in their life who can attest to their academic abilities, work ethic, passions and goals. This could be a teacher, a boss, a coach or leader of an extracurricular program, or some other adult mentor in your student’s life. They should be someone who knows your student in an academic or professional capacity. Your student should pick someone who knows them and their work well enough to have plenty of things to say and specific examples to share in their letter. For example, a leader of a club they’ve been a part of for only a couple weeks might not be the best choice because they don’t know your student very well yet. But a teacher who has known your student since their first year of high school is a great choice.
When reaching out to potential recommenders, your student should make sure they ask in advance so that the recommender has plenty of time to write. It’s important to remember that many students could be asking the same people for letters of recommendation, so they will need at least a few weeks’ notice. When asking, your student should tell their recommender why they’ve chosen them: because of the positive influence this person has had on your student’s life, and because of the professional relationship they’ve built.
Your student should also share with their recommenders any specific information about their program or college goals. What do they hope to do with their degree? What are they passionate about, academically and personally? Where do they see themselves in the future? With this information, a recommender will be able to write a more personalized letter.
Even if the letter of recommendation is an optional part of a college’s application for admission, your student should still include them if they can. Having multiple professional resources to vouch for your student will reflect well on them and could increase their chances of admission.
We’ve created a sample template for you to share with your student to pass along to their recommenders.