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How to Get the Best College Recommendations

[This article discusses how to approach getting the best college recommendations]

College recommendations are an important part of your college application package. Recommendations can set you apart from other applicants and provide the admissions committee with personalized insights. How should you approach them?

1. Read the Fine Print
The number of letters required and the positions of those who are to write them can vary from one school to another. Some schools provide hard copies of the recommendations forms, while others encourage online recommendations.

2. Plan Ahead
Know your deadlines and give as much time as possible. At least three or four weeks prior to the application deadline would be preferable.

3. Ask, Don’t Assume
Ask recommenders whether they can write a strong recommendation on your behalf and meet the deadline.

4. Assist Your Recommenders with the Process
Provide recommenders with a copy of your transcript and an information sheet, known as a brag sheet, which lists your honors, and extra-curricular and community activities.

5. Simplify the Process

Supply recommenders with stamped envelopes addressed to the college admissions office if they are not doing them online.

6. Consider Your Future Major
Solicit recommendations from teachers in your future major.

7. Evaluate Who Can Help You Most
It may be a teacher in a course in which you excelled or where you struggled initially but then turned things around. A teacher in the latter course could testify to your perseverance.

8. Reconnect with Your Recommenders
A week prior to the deadline, get in touch with your recommenders to confirm that the letters have been mailed.

9. Confirm Receipt
Follow up with colleges to ensure that your application folder is complete. If the college recommendations are being submitted online, note your user name and password for each college.

10. Express Thanks to the Recommenders
Send a handwritten note to your recommenders once all materials are in and provide them with the results of your college applications.

David Dickson is a counselor with Top Test Prep; Top Test Prep offers private tutoring and test prep to help students gain admission to top prep schools, colleges and grad schools. Call (800) 501-7737 to learn more.