How To Get Great Letters of Recommendation

Dear College Made Simple reader,

The recommendation letter is one of the most important parts of an application – but many students give it little thought.
The truth is –  What gets sent to colleges can make a huge difference in the admissions process.

Today, let’s go over the best ways to make sure you get recommendations that can make that difference.
– Scott

How To Get Great Letters of Recommendation

1. Stick with people close to you.

Too many students reach to get the most impressive name in their extended address book – but that’s a move that often backfires.
It’s best to get someone who knows you well. In fact close teachers and instructors make for some of the best recommendations. So do bosses or extracurricular leaders. The more personal – and hence genuine – the recommendation, the more effective it will be.

2. Provide plenty of time.

Surprisingly, the majority of students spring a recommendation request at the last second.
Don’t fall into that trap.
For one thing, popular teachers may have their schedule already filled with requests. For another, your recommender won’t have time to craft a great letter, and will likely have to fall back to something closer to a form letter.
Finally, rather than feel honored, a recommender might feel put upon to receive this extra work at the last second.

3. Give plenty of background.

Your recommender should know you well – but might not know much about your life outside the classroom or community activity. Don’t be afraid to give them a resumé or quick bio summary. They may not use it – but you never know what could spark a thought.
Give your recommenders as many possible jumping-off points as possible, and you make their jobs easier. Not to mention, you may end up bringing more personal info into your application without having to toot your own horn excessively.

4. Provide support.

Your recommender shouldn’t have to research where to send the letter, or when. Give them a schedule. Provide stamped and addressed envelopes. Make the process as simple as possible, to make the favor less of a chore.
These little things add up quite a bit when a popular teacher is asked to write 20 letters in a short time period. Make yours the easiest to do, and chances are you’ll get your recommendation letter finished promptly.
And don’t be scared to follow up – when a deadline is approaching, it’s fine to give a gentle reminder to your recommender. Don’t be a pest – but don’t get lost in an email inbox, either.

5. Give thanks.

You never know when you’ll need another recommendation, another favor, or just a good mentor. Stay on great terms by sending some sort of thank-you note. You’ll appear mature and appreciative, while your recommender won’t feel like you’ve wasted his or her time. Show appreciation, and it will come back to you in unpredictable ways.
To your college funding & admissions success,

Scott Weingold
Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC
Publisher, CollegeMadeSimple.com – The free educational resource of College Planning Network

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.