Different colleges have different application processes. College application processes may not require a letter of recommendation or may need several. Even if one is not required, it may be a good idea to have one sent anyway to set you apart from everyone else, increasing your chances of acceptance.
A letter of recommendation provides a more in-depth look at your personality and how you have performed academically and professionally from the perspective of others. Obtaining a letter of recommendation is more extensive than just asking for one and waiting for it to be sent. It would help if you understood what elements make up a letter of recommendation.
Knowing the characteristics of the letter of recommendation needed will make it easier to carefully select who will write the letter of recommendation and how to go about asking for one.
What Elements Make Up a Letter of Recommendation?
Any example letter of recommendation will usually contain the same elements formatted in the same order. For instance, they will usually have an introduction, reasons for the recommendation letter, evidence of the level of recommendation, and a concluding statement that reinforces the recommendation.
This section will explain how the person writing the recommendation knows you and how long they have known or worked with you.
Reasons for Recommendation
The person recommending you will note their observations about how you performed in the capacity that they have known you. They may cite specific skills that you excelled at and specific examples of when you demonstrated excellence at these skills.
Personal Stories and Evidence
In this section, the person recommending you may tell a story or give statistics that back up how your level of excellence prompted them to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf.
Conclusion and Contact Details
The person that is recommending you will then reinforce their belief in your recommendation and will make themselves available to answer questions or provide additional information if needed by adding their contact details.
Select Who Will Write the Letter of Recommendation
A teacher or guidance counselor would probably be the most common choice for a student applying to college. Perhaps, while you were a student, you worked at a place of business and may have sources for recommendations there.
The key is to identify classes or work environments where you excelled or improved drastically. Recommendations from teachers or bosses that noticed and remembered that you were a top performer or how hard you worked to accomplish a goal will set you apart from other applicants. Try to select multiple sources for backup options.
Asking for a Letter of Recommendation
Once you select who will write your letters of recommendation, the next step is to ask:
- Talk to the person first and confirm that they will do it.
- Email a formal request along with supplementary material that displays your accomplishments.
- Follow-up with a polite reminder a couple of weeks before the letters are due.
- Send a short thank-you note.
How is a FERPA Waiver Related to a Letter of Recommendation?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows students who graduate from high school and continue to higher education to be able to access or amend their education records. The student is also able to grant disclosure of personal information from the education records if needed.
The letter of recommendation is sent to the college by the recommender, not the student. It’s set up this way, so the college can get an actual perspective on who you are without doubting the validity of the recommendation because of your possible influence. When recommendation letters are written and sent, they become part of your school record at the college where you enroll.
The college will ask if you want to waive your FERPA right to see the letter of recommendation if you are accepted into the college. If you waive the right to see the letter of recommendation when you are enrolled in the college, you won’t be allowed to see it. The college will communicate your choice to the recommender.
Applying to college, especially the college of your choice, needs the same effort and diligence as was required to maintain the standards to be accepted. Therefore, letters of recommendation are an essential part of the application process and should not be taken lightly.
Knowing what colleges will see when the letters of recommendation are sent will give insight into how to go about selecting the person to write the recommendations on your behalf and how to go about asking. In addition, having a personalized and truthful letter of recommendation written about your accomplishments will set you apart from others.
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