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Advice For Obtaining Your Letters of Recommendation

posted by Kristina Ortiz, Dean of Admissions

Most college applications require letters of recommendation so that their admissions team can learn more about your character, something grades and tests results won’t show. That said, you want to be sure your letters are compelling, positive...and submitted on time. Here are five ways to make sure you get exactly that.   


1. Ask earlyYour teachers and advisors have dozens (if not hundreds!) of recommendation requests from other students, so you want to give them plenty of time. We'd say ask at least a month (or longer) in advance to ensure they don't rush with yours. Definitely don't wait until the last minute; you wouldn't want them to tell you they don't have enough time to write it.

2. Find someone who wants to write about you. First, look at each college’s specific requirements for letters. Some only want letters from teachers (while at LIM, we ask for two that come from an academic or work-related reference). Whoever you choose, make it someone who has a more current perspective about you (from your junior or senior year) and, ideally, knows your strengths in and outside of the classroom—someone who you believe will speak very enthusiastically on your behalf. 

3. Speaking of strengths, remind them of yours. Teachers have taught a lot of students—so make it easier for them to write your letter by scheduling some time to talk with them beforehand. Remind them of specific work you're proud of from their class and how you grew as a student while taking their course. If you're asking your advisor or employer, rather than a teacher, now's the time to fill them in on all of your recent accomplishments—giving him or her something to talk about that makes you stand out.

4. Bring them everything they need. Many applications require specific forms for writers to fill out (like LIM's Undergraduate Recommendation Request Form). Make sure your references have those forms, as well as a due date and a stamped envelope with the correct address. If they're writing several versions of the letter for multiple school applications, give them a separate stamped envelope and request form for each. Take care of all the little details beforehand, so all they have to worry about is making you shine. 

5. Follow up. Check in with your writers a week before the deadline to see how their letters are coming along and gently remind them of the due date. Once their letters are good to go and in the mail, send each reference a thank you note right away—even if you don't hear back from the school. And if you do get some good news, let them know! They're rooting for you, too.

Ready to get started on your own application to LIM? Find out more info here.


Topics: Admissions Advice