Wrecked Over Letters of Rec?

Wrecked over Recs?

You’ve spent hours creating the perfect essay, listed your numerous extra-curricular activities (in chronological order, of course) and proudly achieved your target score on the SAT/ACT. Now what stands between you and the long-awaited acceptance letter are those pesky recommendations.

Many students find the recommendation aspect of the application process the most daunting.  So far, you’ve had complete control of the application, putting your best foot forward and showing the admissions officers only the best, picture-perfect parts of yourself. Since there is no way to know what another person will choose to write about you, the process of attaining a recommendation can be nerve-racking. To make the recommendation process as easy as it can be (and to ensure that the letters will enhance the quality of your application), it is important to remember these key steps:

1. Pick Recommenders Wisely

Think about the college or university that you are applying to and what you will be studying while you’re there. While it can seem like a good idea to ask your favorite teacher for a recommendation, it can be more important to think about how the person relates to your area of study. Ask someone who will be knowledgeable about your future major and your skill sets (if you are planning to study accounting in college, ask a business or mathematics teacher for a recommendation letter). Additionally, pick someone who has interacted with you as a student in the last year or two. Teachers sometimes teach hundreds of students a year, and the more recently you’ve interacted with them, the more likely they are to remember you well.

2. Ask Early

Ask early, and in person. Speaking with people one-on-one shows that you respect them and do not feel entitled to get a letter. It also gives the recommender a chance to ask questions about the college or university, about your future plans and about what you expect out of the recommendation.  If you don’t know an answer to a question, find out and get back to them quickly. Recommendation letters also have submission deadlines, so make sure the recommender is aware of the deadline and how to submit the letter (if the college wants the letter electronically, make sure you know how to submit it online. If the school wants a hard copy, provide addressed envelopes and stamps).  And, if the recommender does not feel comfortable writing the letter, do not take it personally. Recommenders may feel as if they don’t know you well enough, or simply don’t have the time. Think of it as a chance to ask someone else who might write you an even better letter.

3. Follow Up

Shortly after asking for a letter, send your recommenders a brief e-mail thanking them for agreeing to write your letter and reminding them of the deadline once again. After all, it is not just the recommenders’ responsibility to make sure the letter is submitted on time, it is also yours. There’s nothing worse than forgetting to follow-up with a recommender, thus missing a deadline and leaving the application incomplete. After the letter has been submitted, give recommenders a hand-written thank-you note. After all, they were in no way required to take time out to write a recommendation letter, but they did it as a favor to you. Then, keep them abreast of your progress. If you are accepted to a college where letters were sent, let them know; there’s no limit to how many times you can say thank you!

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Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in News-Editorial Journalism with an interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. Emma enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and snuggling up on the couch with her cat, “Louie.” She also spends her time volunteering and hanging out with family and friends.
Emma Weissmann

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