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Recommendations Part 1: Who Should Write Your Recommendation

Getting recommendations can be one of the most difficult aspects of the college admissions process. It is the first point where your application is out of your control. What if the person says something negative? What if they don’t write about the amazing work you did on a project? What if they fail to get it in on time?

Understanding that this part of the process is out of your hands is an important step in the application process. It is an opportunity to get used to not having control of your application- an important ability when a select group of people in a faraway admissions office will be evaluating your application.

That said, while you can’t control your recommendations, there are steps you can take to get the most out of them. The first step is picking the right people to write your recommendations.

In deciding this, ask yourself, “What are colleges trying to get out of the recommendation?” Admissions officers are not merely looking for whether or not you come “recommended.” They are using the recommendation to get a better view of who you are as a person. The more your application conveys “a person,” rather than just a set of grades and numbers, the more it will stand out. The more it stands out, the better it will fare.

Admissions officers at top schools are faced with the task of choosing between thousands of equally-qualified students to fill a limited number of spaces. You want your application to stick with an admissions officer- to contain something he or she will think about while at lunch or driving home. A recommendation filled with powerful and vivid anecdotes from a person who knows you well has the opportunity to provide just that.

To that end, the most important quality a good recommender can have is a close relationship to you and a good understanding of your character. Don’t  choose a teacher who doesn’t know you well just because you are certain he or she will say positive things about you. Rather, opt for someone that has seen how you act in different situations, who has seen you face challenges, and who has seen you grow.

What if that person has seen negative qualities that you don’t want them to write about? The truth is that everyone has qualities that are not always positive. If a teacher knows you well, they may bring these qualities up, but it will likely be packaged within a broader context that will let admissions officers see it as part of your larger character.

Your recommendation is also a chance to back up the qualities you say about yourself. If, for example, you talk about being a leader in your application, it would be a good idea to find someone who has seen that side of you, such as a coach or club advisor. A recommendation is also an opportunity to bring up aspects of your character that you don’t have the opportunity to address in your essays. Perhaps you had a challenging sophomore year in which you didn’t perform as well as you hoped. A recommender may be able to address this, and discuss how you faced these challenges and grew from them.

Finally, be sure that your recommender can write well. After all, the best story of how you climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro after saving an orphanage won’t win you much esteem if it’s filled with typos and is badly-written.
This article is titled, “Recommendations Part 1: Who Should Write Your Recommendation.”  It was written by Jon B. who is a writer for Top Test Prep’s team.

To learn more about Top Test Prep’s programs, call (800) 501-Prep or visit TopTestPrep.com.

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