A well-written letter of recommendation (LOR) is a significant part of college applications. It provides an external evaluation of an applicant’s qualities and showcases their suitability for higher education.

Typically, a recommendation letter comprises an explanation of the recommender’s relationship to the applicant, specific anecdotes, and a positive evaluation. Intended to shed light on an applicant’s character, work ethic, skills, and abilities, recommendation letters help admissions committees form a more comprehensive picture of the applicant, beyond grades and achievements. A LOR adds credibility to an application as it substantiates the claims made in essays and transcripts.

This article explores the nitty-gritty of recommendation letters, including whom to ask for one, what to include in it, and how to ensure you get a good recommendation letter. We hope it’ll help you in your application process!

Who Should I Ask to Write a Recommendation Letter?

When seeking recommendation letters, it’s very important to choose the right person to make the recommendation. Firstly, pay close attention to the requirements of each college application. Certain institutions may specify that recommendation letters come from specific sources, like subject-specific teachers or school counselors.

Additionally, opt for someone who has taught you and knows you well, as they can give you a more insightful and personalized recommendation. Teachers who’ve witnessed your growth and are actively engaged with your academic journey are better equipped to highlight your strengths and potential.

The aim is to present a well-rounded view of your character, skills, and suitability for higher education – so mentors, coaches, supervisors from extracurricular activities, or employers who can attest to your qualities are also excellent choices. Selecting recommenders who vouch for your capabilities will greatly improve their impact.

What Key Points Should be Included in a Recommendation Letter?

A strong recommendation letter can determine whether an application succeeds or not. While the specifics can vary, an effective recommendation letter should include the following key points:

Introduction and Relationship: The recommender should introduce themselves and establish their connection to the applicant. Explaining the duration and nature of the relationship provides useful context.

Achievements and Attributes: Highlight personal qualities that make the applicant stand out, such as resilience, leadership, creativity, or teamwork. It is most effective when the teacher shares specific anecdotes or instances that exemplify the mentioned qualities.

The letter should also discuss the academic performance and accomplishments within the recommender’s area of interaction with the applicant. It can also outline the student’s involvement in extracurricular activities, clubs, sports, or community service.

Potential for Future Success: Strong letters of recommendation express confidence in the applicant’s ability to succeed in college and beyond, highlighting their potential to contribute positively to the academic community.

Recommendation letters add depth to an application, providing insights into the prospective student’s character and potential. By focusing on these key points, the letter will contribute to a compelling and well-rounded presentation of the applicant to the admissions committees.

How to Make Sure that You Get the Best Recommendation?

Securing a strong recommendation letter requires you to be proactive to ensure that the process is seamless for your recommenders. Here are five tips that can help you obtain positive and detailed recommendations that highlight your achievements and potential:

Tip 1: Cultivate relationships

This is not something that can happen overnight; it requires months or even years of investment. But this is the most effective way to ensure you get a strong recommendation. Foster connections with teachers, mentors, or supervisors by actively engaging in class discussions, seeking advice, and participating in extracurricular activities. You can meet them outside of class hours to share your plans, clarify doubts, and just keep them updated on your academic performance and goals. This interaction allows them to know you beyond the classroom, enabling them to write a more personalized letter.

Tip 2: Select the right person

Choosing the right individual to write your recommendation letter goes a long way toward ensuring its quality and impact. Opt for someone who knows you well and can provide meaningful insights into your character, abilities, and achievements.

In addition to this, consider their willingness and capacity to write a detailed and positive letter. A recommender’s genuine enthusiasm and ability to highlight your unique attributes can significantly enhance your application’s credibility.

Another thing to keep in mind is their subject area; teachers in the field that you are applying to may be able to give specific insight into your suitability for the program. This will ensure that you get the best possible recommendation letter that highlights all the important aspects that make you the best candidate for the program.

Tip 3: Give ample time

This cannot be emphasized enough: Do not wait until the end! Approaching your teacher well in advance not only demonstrates your respect for their time but also allows them to produce a thoughtful and well-structured recommendation that truly highlights your strengths. Make sure you give them a minimum of three weeks to write their recommendation.

Tip 4: Provide comprehensive information

This is a very important step if you want to get a good recommendation letter– offer your recommenders all the information they will need to write the letter. This includes your resume, a list of accomplishments, and details about your academic and extracurricular pursuits.

You can remind your recommenders of specific instances where you excelled or demonstrated shining attributes. Offering anecdotes or projects that showcase your abilities will help them write a detailed and impactful recommendation.

To provide them with more insight, you can clearly articulate your academic and career goals to them. This lets them know how their endorsement aligns with your aspirations, helping them tailor their letter accordingly.

Tip 5: Follow up

Maintaining open communication with your recommenders throughout the recommendation letter process is essential. After requesting a recommendation, consider following up politely to make sure things are on track. It’s also a great way to convey any additional information you want to bring to their attention. Remember to follow up with courtesy and respect for their time.

Of course, don’t forget to express your gratitude for their willingness to write the letter and assure them of your appreciation for their time and effort!

Recommendation letters are not just an admissions formality but a valuable testimony of your suitability for a program. Getting a well-crafted recommendation letter and from the right person can greatly improve your chances of admission. These tips will help you create an environment conducive to your recommenders providing positive and comprehensive insights.


Hopefully, this article on how to get a great recommendation letter was informative. Make sure to also check out our Scholarships Page for different information on scholarships and universities across the globe!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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