Thursday, February 12, 2015

Requesting Recommendation Letters

With application season underway, it's time to get your recommendations lined up.  Some applications will allow you to use high school teachers, but most will expect you to use college faculty and staff.  After all you are a college student now and hopefully you got to know some people last semester.  So as you consider who to ask, keep these things in mind:

  1. In what class can you say you have made a positive impression on your instructor?
  2. Is there an advisor who knows you farily well?
  3. Does your recommender know more about you than your grade in their class?
  4. What positive attributes has this person witnessed?
Recommendation letters take time and you want to ask (in person when possible) at least three weeks in advance of the application due date if your potential letter writer can write a strong letter of support for you.  It sounds like a no-brainer, but if someone doesn't know you well, the letter may not be stellar, it will only be so-so.  You want to know that before you leave your summer plans in their hands.  Recognize that if you've been mediocre, it may be difficult to find someone to speak for you.  We'll deal with that later and we'll move forward as though you have this locked down.

When the recommender agrees, provide them with everything they need including an updated copy of your resume, program names, information, and application dates for each letter.  Don't over load them with more than three letters and provide a short paragraph about why you want to participate in the program and what makes you a good candidate.  The paragraph will come in handy when you write your personal statement.  

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