Getting in to college can be a rough, frustrating experience. But, you already know that. Your child’s test scores and GPA are probably already weighing on them (no pun intended), and the pressures of knowing if they’ve done well enough can be, well, maddening. One of the most important factors of getting into the college of his or her choice is a stellar letter of recommendation, and if you’re not sure where to start, there are many sample letters of recommendation available online so that you’re child and student gets what he or she desire and deserve.
What a Letter of Recommendation is and why it’s Important
A letter of recommendation is pretty self-explanatory—it lets someone know (in our case college admissions officials) exactly why you (your student) are a good fit for the university or a particular program. It highlights not only the students’ academic strengths, but also makes claims to their character—who they are as a person and what their passionate about. Yes, this is where the charm and charisma your teenager exudes gets to make a strong impact with college admissions, as university officials want to see and know that the students that they are allowing into their university will be a great reflection of the university itself.
How to Choose the Author for your Letter of Recommendation
There are many tips out there for students and teachers for recommendation letters, as well as sample recommendation letters. Choosing who to ask can get tricky, as it is not always that obvious.
Students should choose a teacher that really knows the student, not just the “fun” teacher, or the teacher whose class they performed the best in during their time in high school. Choose a teacher that you had a connection with in school, one you feel really made a difference in your high school career. Choose a teacher, who was involved in your extra-curricular activities, possibly a coach from a sports team or a club moderator. Teachers who have spent time with a student outside of the classroom are the ones who truly know a student’s value—what they’re worth now and what they can achieve in their life to come when presented with the right opportunity.
And don’t be wary of asking a teacher to write your letter of recommendation merely, because you struggled in his or her class a bit. You might find that a teacher whose class you had to overcome academic hardships in may, in fact, turn out to be the perfect fit to write a stellar letter of recommendation. If you wowed a teacher with your dedication, perseverance and enthusiasm to learn the material and perform better, that teacher just might be the one to wow an admissions board by telling them your story.
Teachers should also make sure that they too know the student, beyond just being a face in one of their classes, before agreeing to write a letter of recommendation. While it is ultimately up to the teacher to determine whether or not he or she wants to share the letter of recommendation with the particular student, he or she should, at the very least, have a dialog with the student before writing the letter. Find out a bit more about the student—how he views himself, what she wants to get out of her college experience and what he or she wants to do in life when finished with college. (That charm and charisma should be glistening about now.) Find out what college or colleges the student would like the letter sent to, and why he chose that particular school or schools, as that too may give you a good understanding of who your student truly is. It’s ok to figure out what she would, and sometimes more importantly, what she would not like you to say in the letter of recommendation. Most importantly, figure out whom it needs to be sent to and what the deadline for having it sent is.
Writing the Perfect Letter of Recommendation Starts with the Perfect Sample Letter of Recommendation
It can often be difficult to determine how to even begin writing a letter of recommendation for a student. Questions you might be asking yourself are: How do I start it? What should it say? How should it read? What should it look like? What should I not say? How long should it be? How formal should it be?
These are great questions. Maybe it’s the first time you’ve been asked to write a letter of recommendation, or maybe it’s the hundredth. No matter how few nor how many letters you have been asked to write, it never hurts to give yourself a refresher course on writing a great letter of recommendation. One of the best ways to go about learning or even re-learning how to properly write a letter of recommendation is by searching for top-notch samples. A great resource for this can be colleges themselves, as often times colleges will put online what a sample letter of recommendation should look like. Keep in mind that if a college is telling you that that is the type or style of letter that they want, then it is likely a safe bet to go with that style.
A good sample letter of recommendation will not only be written well (the spelling, grammar and punctuation will be flawless), but it should also give you the feeling that it isn’t straight off of the sample letter page. More than that, it should tell you what types of words to use and why; tips for success and hints on things to avoid. If you follow a few simple guidelines, there is no reason that you should not be able to write an outstanding letter of recommendation and help one (or more) of your students get into the college of his or her dreams.
While there are many other factors that go into the college process, like figuring out how to pick your major, few things are more important than an amazing letter of recommendation for an amazing student. We’ve told you what a letter of recommendation is; why it’s important, how to choose the best person to write it, and how to write it. The charm and charisma thing is all on you.
Have you written a great letter of recommendation for a student? How did you go about doing so? Let us know in the comments.