Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation may be an important part of your college application.  Many colleges will require recommendations as part of your application package.  On the other hand, many will not. Those will most likely be community colllege, public colleges, and less competitive private schools.

On the "other" other hand, a selective program (maybe nursing or nuclear medicine) at the local community college may require recommendations. 

Bottom line?  You can't know for sure if you need them unless you know the school you're going to attend.  Since most students don't at this point, it's probably best to line up a couple of recommendations for your file.

Take some time now to identify a couple of adults who know you well enough to write a good letter for you.  Teachers, coaches, and employers are all possibities, as well as clergy, or other members of the community.  Counselors and school administrators are also OK, but do they really know you well enough to do a good letter?  Sorry, your mom is out.  Some people think she might be biased.

It should be someone who can say  the usual nice things about you.  Even better if they can document a particular achievement or challenge you've overcome.  And honestly, they  should probably like you.  That teacher you tortured daily in 10th grade?  Maybe not the best choice.

Next you'll have to ask if they could write a letter of recommendation for you.  I did say "ask."  It's no one's "job," although many people will be glad to do it.  If they agree, give them some background (classes taken, grades, activities, interests, and achievements).  They may use some of that to round out what they know about you from first-hand experience.

Finally, tell them when you'll need it.  Two weeks or a month is usually good.  Please don't tell them "Friday."  It shows a lack of concern for their time, and may force them to throw something together quickly when they might have done a better letter for you.

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