Nothing slaps that extra seal of awesomeness on a college application like a great letter of recommendation.

You’ve been working night and day on your essays. You’ve been cultivating a resume and application profile chock full of brilliant leadership experience and extracurricular awesomeness.

But have you thought about who’s going to vouch for you?

Why Is Getting A Great College Letter of Recommendation Important?

Well-written letters or recommendations speak to a college applicant’s strengths, skills and character. They help a school’s admissions committee gain extremely valuable, unique insight on an individual from the perspective of someone who knows them well.

That’s really important, especially since these decision makers are literally going to have thousands and thousands of college applications taking up space on their desks, many of which look and sound a lot alike.

A great letter of recommendation showcases things that are absent from your resume transcripts and test scores: things like integrity, work ethic, determination, dedication, or courage in the face of adversity.

Who Should Write Your Letter Of Recommendation?

The simple answer here is someone who knows you well and will speak eloquently, positively, and in great detail about the time they’ve spent with you. The perfect person to ask to write you a letter of recommendation is a teacher, coach, boss or mentor who has seen you demonstrate some of your strongest qualities, and additionally, has no problem painting a clear picture what those qualities are. Basically, you want to pick someone who you know can (and will) talk you up.

Who Should NOT Write Your Letter Of Recommendation?

1. Someone who is "important," but that you barely know.

First and foremost, you should never have someone write a letter of rec for you simply because they’re “important people,” such as a principal, head football coach, etc. Both of these examples are excellent choices for recommenders if, and only if, they know you well enough to speak highly of you. As a general rule of thumb always go with the person who knows you best and can speak in great detail about your character over someone who has a fancy title. In this case, the person’s title is irrelevant.  

2. Someone who knows you too well

Another pitfall to avoid is choosing a recommender who’s biased simply because they think you’re awesome. Not because they’re necessarily wrong… but because parents, family and friends are not usually considered legitimate sources for letters of recommendation. Again, your mom is totally right: you are absolutely the most talented, creative and utterly genius human specimen to come out of the 90’s, but that glowing reflection just has to come from someone else.

3. Someone who can't honestly attest to your positive performance

And finally, though one would think this would go without saying, we highly recommend you ask someone who not only knows you well, but someone who also has a POSITIVE outlook on your performance and character. For instance, a teacher whose class you did well in, but continuously skipped out on, might not be someone you consider putting at the top of your LOR list.

Remember, the ultimate goal here is to get someone who’s going to sell you like the newest version of the iPhone, not an iPhone 5s that works, but doesn’t quite do all the things that a 6 does.

Are you a first-generation student in the US? Check out Admissionado's First Gen Ten Scholarship Program.

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