After the letter has been submitted, you may choose to write a personal note. Thanks so much for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for my application . I'm attaching the poster abstract from my work I had accepted at the Mutant.
A substantial bribe. Just kidding. You should give your teacher recommenders something much more valuable for writing effective letters of recommendation: your input.
Sharing your ideas will assist your teacher in writing you an insightful and specific letter. This guide will discuss what materials you should produce, and why your "recommender's packet" can go a long way toward making your final letter outstanding.
To start, let’s review why recommendations are important to your application. If you understand what admissions officers look for, then you can make sure that your materials are useful and relevant. With this in mind, let's consider what purpose rec letters serve in the admission process.
Many four-year colleges require one or two recommendation letters from your teachers and school counselor. The main reason for this requirement is to get to know you better. Colleges aren’t just looking at your grades and SAT scores. They’re seeking to learn about you in a holistic sense - how you interact with your teachers and peers, how you approach the learning process, and what motivates and excites you, to give a few examples.
Teachers can speak to both your intellectual and personal qualities, as well as to the role you play in the classroom on a day to day basis. Simply having an enthusiastic recommendation shows that you made a positive impression and maintained a good relationship with your teachers. If you made a splash at high school, you’re likely to work well with your peers and professors at college and contribute on campus too.
Because of all the information and support they can communicate, recommendation letters play a very important role in the college application review process. Given their weight in the admissions decision, what makes some letters stand out while others blend into the background?
As I mentioned above, you should share your ideas and information with your teacher recommenders, who can refer to your packet when they sit down to write your letter. However, you want to make sure your materials are useful. Without knowing what makes some letters good and others bad, you’d have a hard time knowing what kind of info to share.
So, in a nutshell, a good letter of rec is insightful, personal, and enthusiastic. While your teacher should talk about your intellectual abilities and attitude towards learning, she should also speak to personal qualities, like empathy, creativity, or leadership skills.
Just as importantly, she should be specific and demonstrative. By this, I mean that she should describe particular instances where you demonstrated your strengths. In a sense, her anecdotes can prove that her descriptions of you are accurate.
On the flip side, a bad letter may sound lukewarm and generic. It may sidestep talking about your personal qualities and instead only list data, like grades and test scores. An ineffective letter would also be unspecific and lack examples, making it effectively impersonal, even vague.
Based on these elements of a good letter, you can put together a “recommender’s packet” that will be useful to your letter writers. You can provide the type of information - your academic interests and goals, your personal strengths and values, and memorable anecdotes from class - that your teacher can incorporate to make her letter stand out.
Generally, this recommenders' packet will be provided for you by your guidance office. If it’s not for some reason, you would still be well served to put it together yourself. Read on to learn more about what kind of info should go into this packet!
Once you ask you teacher for a letter and she agrees, you should share the following materials:
The first few points on this list shouldn’t take too long to record, but other components, like your resume and brag sheet, may require 15 or more hours of work. Let’s break down each component in more detail so you know what it is, why it’s important, and how you can prepare.
Share the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities...
Perhaps it goes without saying that you have to give your recommenders the bare necessities: a list of colleges to which she should send her letter, instructions on how to submit, and, of course, your deadlines.
Some teachers may upload their letters to your school's online application, others to the Common Application, and still others to the e-docs software, Naviance. Let your teacher know what method she'll be using.
Ideally, you have your list of colleges and deadlines on hand when you make your request. If you’re asking especially early - maybe you’re asking your beloved 10th grade English teacher at the end of the year - then you can follow up with this information later.
Remember that your teacher may have many letters to write, along with everything else she’s up to - so write everything down. That way she can refer to this information when she sits down to write your letter.
Share all your deadlines, and send a reminder about a week before if you see that she hasn’t submitted her letter yet. Once she does submit, make sure to send a thank you note for her help in getting into college.
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Once you've shared the essential info, think about your special skills and interests. Also, please never try this at home.
Maybe you’re asking your English teacher because you plan to study creative writing, and you’d love her to speak to your writing abilities. Perhaps you’re asking your Physics teacher so she can talk about your innovative contributions to the Robotics Club she supervises.
Depending on your comfort level and relationship with your teacher, you wouldn’t be crossing a line if you explicitly stated what skills, qualities, or goals you’d like her to highlight in your letter.
As mentioned above, the most effective recommendation letters speak to your intellectual and personal qualities. By sharing your ideas, you could ensure that your teacher includes your academic and personal strengths.
I’m not suggesting that you tell your recommender how to write her letter. You could keep what you say short and sweet, something like, “I’d really love if you could include my skill / interest / talent in (fill in the blank here).”
Make sure that the skill, interest, or talent you mention is appropriate for a rec letter. A passion for a subject, insightful comments in class, or a willingness to take on special projects would be worth mentioning. Your daredevil balancing stunts in tall places may be less relevant.
This small amount of input could actually help provide your teacher with a theme around which to focus her letter.
Let your teacher know what you learned from her class.
Similarly, you might remind your teacher about a memorable project you worked on or lesson that was especially meaningful from class. If you had any notable achievements or important moments, you could describe them to your teacher.
Since the best rec letters use specific examples, your input could be a useful reminder. Maybe you worked on a special research project or excelled in a debate. Perhaps reading A Brave New World changed your perspective on life. Maybe your teacher’s class helped you discover you want to be a World History major.
Whatever you took away from her class, it could be useful to share. Your input could help make her letter even more specific. If nothing else, your teacher will appreciate hearing that her class made an impact on your thinking.
Before requesting your recommendation, list out your reasons for asking this teacher. Think about any stand out projects or instances where you went beyond requirements. Consider times that you contributed to a discussion, or perhaps had a thought-provoking conversation you had with your teacher.
Write these moments down, and share them with your teacher when you make your request. As with above, you don't want to come off like you're writing the letter for your teacher.
You could say something short and to the point, like, “I learned a ton from your class and was hoping you could provide me with a recommendation for college. One of my favorite projects was…”
Since teacher recommendation letters provide a micro-view of you as a student - they got to know you on a day to day basis - they should include specifics from your class performance. Your teacher should have examples in mind, but it shouldn’t hurt for you to share your own memories too!
All students should include a resume in their recommender’s packet. Your teacher will mainly write about you in the context she knew you - as a student in her class. However, it’s also helpful for her to know what other responsibilities you balanced and what other activities you’re interested in, especially if they connect to her subject. For instance, maybe your Physics teacher will see that you pursued your passion for mechanical engineering for three years in Robotics Club.
As described above, your teacher shouldn’t repeat your whole resume and fill your letter with data. However, it is useful for them to have context and learn more about what you’ve been up to in high school. Your resume, therefore, is an essential document to give your recommenders to help them write your letter.
People style their resumes based on personal taste, but the best ones include certain key elements: a summary of skills, a list of activities and work experiences with brief descriptions, and any awards or achievements. You want to include your dates of involvement, and you may state an objective at the top.
You should check out some samples and choose the format that works best for your experiences. Apart from providing a resume, you should be prepared to talk about what you learned from your experiences, especially as any relate to your teacher’s class or your academic goals for college.
Even if your teacher doesn’t sit down to speak with you about it, you may provide these reflections in written form in your brag sheet. That way you can communicate not just what you did in high school, but what each experience meant to you.
Finally, we get to the brag sheet, perhaps the most significant part of your packet. Your guidance department should provide you with this document, and its questions may vary from school to school. Whatever version you use, it should include prompts that ask you to think about your experiences, identity, and goals.
Rather than giving quick, cliche answers, you should try to dig deep. Even if it feels vulnerable, being honest and revealing is the best way to communicate something real, important, and authentic. Ideally, your recommender already knows you well, but your brag sheet should help her get to know you even better.
Some prompts may include:
Depending on your school, your brag sheet may be more or less thorough (or may not exist at all). If you feel you have more to share, you could add your own questions and answers. Besides adding more info, what else can you do to make your brag sheet as useful and telling as it can be?
As you can see, the questions on a brag sheet are quite personal. They’re tough to answer immediately. Instead, they call for some serious introspection and self-awareness. Don’t worry if your first reaction is to go blank. It takes some time to reflect on these questions and come up with answers that feel genuine and meaningful.
One way to dig deeper might be to sit with a question and jot down any ideas that come to mind. For instance, let’s say you’re trying to describe an involvement that’s important to you. You might write down your participation in track team. Then you should ask yourself a simple question: why?
Maybe track team has enhanced your confidence. Again, ask yourself, Why? Maybe you’re continuously breaking your personal records and showing yourself that you can redefine your sense of limitations.
You can keep asking yourself "why" to get to something that resonates with you - maybe your achievements in running have spread into other areas in your life by showing that if you endure discomfort in the moment, you can break through to a new level that you didn’t know was possible.
Then again, another student might value track team because of the friendships she made there. Maybe she felt a strong sense of belonging with her track team, and this connectedness showed her that she can adapt to any new social situation.
If you keep asking yourself why and defining your reasons, then your answer may look very different - and much more revealing - than where you started. Two students may write about their involvement in track, but they may value the experience for very different reasons. And this says something different about who they are and what's important to them.
Your brag sheet will help your teacher write an insightful letter that reveals your character, personality, and values. They may also include significant circumstances in your family or personal background, if you're comfortable sharing them. All of this insight will help admissions officers get to know you on a deeper level.
Your letters should give admissions committees a fuller sense of who you are as a student and person. By giving this same well-rounded sense to your teachers, you will give them all the materials they need - along with the relationship they’ve already established with you - to write a personal and effective letter of recommendation.
The most important takeaway you should gain from this guide is that you can play an active and influential role in getting strong recommendation letters. Of course, the foundation of your letters is how you performed in class over the year and got to know your teachers. Beyond this, though, you can prepare thoughtful information that will help your teacher write a specific, personalized, and revealing letter.
Thinking about and producing your materials should take a few weeks of planning. You should expect to spend about 15 hours or more on creating and proofreading your resume and brag sheet.
You shouldn’t scribble off fast answers to your brag sheet prompts; instead, take the time to sit with these questions and dig deeply, continually challenging yourself to get to the root of your answers by asking, “Why?” as in the example above. Your responses will not only jog your teacher’s memory and teach her new things about you, but they will also show her how much effort and planning you’re putting into your college applications.
Hopefully, you’ve asked a teacher who supports you and knows you well. By putting in the effort to share your ideas, resume, and brag sheet, you can be confident you’ve done everything in your power to acquire an excellent letter of recommendation.
In addition to teacher recommendations, most colleges want to see an evaluation from your school counselor. To learn about how your counselor rec differs from your teacher recs, check out these examples of strong letters. For letters you don't want from your counselor, read these four examples.
You may be surprised to learn how much influence you can have on your recommendation letters. Along similar lines, you also want to be strategic about how you present your extracurricular activities on your college applications. Check out this full guide on how to write about extracurriculars in the most impressive way.
For more on the ins and outs of applying to college,check out this full step by step guide! It goes over everything from choosing your high school classes to brainstorming personal ideas. It's also available in snazzy infographic form!
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Prof. X,. I hope everything is going well. I just wanted to thank you again for taking the time to write a letter of recommendation for me last fall.
Strong letters of recommendation that speak to your intelligence, passion, and potential are an essential part of your medical school application. They transform you from a list of statistics on a sheet of paper into somebody perceived to be an intelligent, capable applicant. Together with your personal statement, recommendations are what show admissions committees who you really are.
Still, it can be difficult to know where to begin when asking for letters of recommendation, especially if you haven’t contacted your prospective recommenders for a few years, as is the case for most students who choose not to go directly to medical school after graduation. If you happen to have taken a year or more off before applying, fear not.
Individuals who are commonly asked to write letters of recommendation—professors, research directors, and volunteer coordinators—are used to being bombarded by emails from students during application rounds. As a result, it may be helpful to remember that what seems to you like a demanding request is something they often consider to be just another part of their job description.
That being said, you do not want your request to get lost in the mix. Therefore, it is all the more important that you reach out to them early on to re-establish your previous connection by sending a short, but informative email.
Once you have identified the individuals you believe will be willing to write you strong letters of recommendation, it is time to contact them. Approximately two to three months before you plan on applying to graduate school, send a personalized email to each of your prospective letter writers. Try to keep this email short and sweet, while addressing the following three main points:
It is also advised that you attach a CV so prospective letter writers can see the other organizations and projects you have been involved in that were not mentioned in the body of your email.
Remember, a the great thing about reaching out to letter writers after many years is that you can guide your recommender towards writing the letter you think would best supplement your application by structuring your email and CV to highlight the relevant projects.
Reach out to your recommenders and request letters two to three months before your applications are due to ensure that you are able to find alternative writers if necessary. Avoid requesting letters more than six months before deadlines so that you can be certain your plans will not change and that your letter writers will not forget that they committed to writing you a letter.
However, do not hesitate to contact them earlier to send a “Hello, how have you been?” email and re-establish contact.
When evaluating letters of recommendation, quality is far more important than quantity. So, once a prospective letter writer has agreed to speak with you, be sure to ask whether they will be able to provide you with a strong letter of recommendation. Most faculty will be up front with their answer. If they express doubts, ask if there is any information you can share that may help them better represent you in the letter. If they state that they will not be able to provide a strong letter, thank them for their consideration and move on to an alternate letter writer.
Finally, make sure you send your letter writers an email two weeks prior to the application deadline both to thank them and remind them of the approaching deadline. Also consider writing them a more formal thank you email once the application is submitted. Don’t forget to reach out after you have been accepted into schools to send one final thank you email and update them on which school you ultimately choose to attend.
[ READ NEXT: Medical School Letters of Recommendation and Personal Statements]
Yes, you should thank and inform your letter writer, and no, you shouldn't worry about some bizarre and unrealistic "re-evaluation" of your admission.
Comments: It is very unlikely that your writer wrote a negative letter. In general, one only agrees to write a letter if one has something constructive or positive to say. Having read lots of letters, I'll note that even judgmental and perfectionist people put their criticisms in context, comparing to their general assessments of other students or researchers. (I.e. this person isn't perfect, but he/she is better than most others for the following reasons). These letters, in fact, are often the most compelling.
As a further comment, you're being very uncharitable in assuming bad intentions of someone who agreed to write a letter for you!
And a final comment: no university is going to care to "re-evaluate" their admission of you, even in the stunningly unlikely event that someone asks them to, except in cases of actual fraud, criminal issues, etc. Everyone involved has better things to be doing with their time.
answered May 11 '17 at 0:02
After your teachers agree to write you letters of recommendation, it is helpful to Included below is a sample note written by a student to a teacher confirming a Thank you so much for agreeing to write a college letter of recommendation on.
Because of our highly competitive applicant pool, letters of recommendation hold substantial weight in our admissions decisions. A well-written letter for an outstanding applicant can show impressive characteristics beyond their own self-advocacy.
Both guidance counselor and teacher evaluations are most helpful when they are specific and storied. They should provide us with the information and impressions we cannot glean from the rest of the application. Try to give a complete sketch of the student and the context of their accomplishments. Support your conclusions with facts and anecdotes whenever possible.
Try to address the following questions in your evaluation:
Please pay special attention to the opening and closing of your evaluation. Remember, we are reading over 20,000 applications, and we appreciate strong statements that we’ll remember as we evaluate each candidate. With that said, please write in a way that makes you feel comfortable and do not shy away from giving us your honest impressions. We are only looking for glowing superlatives if they are backed up with examples and give us context; what is behind a student’s achievements. Above all else, make sure to go beyond a student’s grades and academic performance. We can get this information from other parts of the application.
Letters of recommendation are confidential in the MIT admissions process.
It is a great pleasure for me to recommend David for admission to MIT. He is one of the most extraordinary students I have encountered in 20 years of teaching. I taught David A.P. Calculus last year as a tenth grader, and he was one of the very top students in an extremely able group of mostly seniors. He has a high aptitude for math and was very much involved in his work, applying himself with persistence and dedication and often going beyond the regular class assignments.
David’s abiding interest, however, is computer science. He has developed a series of “strands” for use in providing computerized drill and review in the basic skills and techniques of algebra and arithmetic and has recently adapted these to other subjects. David’s work in this area has been so original and significant that he has published a paper on it and delivered several lectures to professionals in other parts of the country. This is a phenomenal accomplishment for anyone, especially a young man in rural Arkansas. It is also worth noting that both last year and this year David taught computer programming to a tenth-grade class of mine for two weeks. He took over completely, preparing lectures, assignments, and tests with great care and thought. His lectures were clear and well organized, and it was obvious that he had expended a great deal of effort to make the course the success that it was.
David’s personal qualities are as impressive as his intellectual accomplishments. An extremely kind, sensitive and sensible boy, he has had a difficult family situation for a few years now. He provides emotional support to his mother through her battle with cancer without allowing the situation to undermine his own stability and accomplishments. He has exhausted all that we have to offer him in this small community, and the maturity that he has demonstrated leads me to believe him capable of entering college a year early, as he now plans to do. I sincerely hope that you will be able to offer him a place in MIT’s freshman class.
Critique: Excellent! This recommendation is filled with comments from someone who clearly knows this student well. We get a clear sense for not only David’s intellectual capacities, but also emotional maturity. His genuine love for computer programming comes through in this teacher’s description. We also realize that he is pushing academic boundaries in his community and making opportunities for himself – a trait that is especially important for a candidate seeking college admissions a year early.
Jen was a student in one of my predominately senior physics classes. She took physics her junior year in high school and was a good student. Through hard work, she was able to develop a good understanding of the subject material.
Jen also had personal qualities that are commendable. In the two years that I have known her I have never known her to be dishonest or untrustworthy. Once on an exam paper I had made a grading error in her favor. She brought this to my attention even though it resulted in a lower test grade.
In conclusion, I feel that Jen has both the academic and personal qualities to be a credit to the college of her choice, and I give her my recommendation without reservation.
Critique: We receive thousands of recommendations like this each year. It is all positive, but it doesn’t give any real depth to the candidate. In this instance, the reader is left feeling the writer is reaching for something to say. Honesty and trustworthiness are certainly admirable traits, but they are not uncommon among the nation’s top college applicants. We are looking for a compelling reason to admit someone, so information on the class material does not help the candidate. Although Jen may be a hard worker, most of our applicants are. Although the comments are positive, it is difficult to grasp onto anything tangible to make this candidate’s case stronger. Was this faint praise intentional? How does Jen fare in comparison with other (more outstanding?) candidates at the school?
Mary has contributed to the school community in a variety of ways, most notably through her participation on the newspaper and yearbook staffs. Frankly, I am impressed with her aggressiveness, creativity, determination and ability to schedule extracurricular activities around a full academic workload. I have never heard Mary complain about her workload or refuse any assignment that she has been given. It is not adequate to say that she accepts responsibility readily. She seeks responsibility. Oh, for more such students!
As business manager for the paper and co-editor of the yearbook the past two years, Mary has done an outstanding job. She personally brought the town’s business community from the view that the school newspaper was a charitable organization to the realization that the paper is a direct pipeline through which advertisers can reach students. She also took the initiative to set up the advertising rate schedule for the paper that produced enough revenue to expand coverage from a four-page paper, so that it is an eight-page and often twelve-page paper. Her work as photographer for both publications has been equally outstanding.
Her motivation is not forced upon her, nor does she wear it like a badge. She has tremendous self-discipline. Mary is also a dedicated, versatile and talented student who will be an asset to your undergraduate community. She has my respect and my highest recommendation.
Critique: Good. Lots of specifics here give us a very clear impression and help us to know why that impression is held. We have evidence of her newspaper directives and overall character.
Jane is an outstanding young woman whose academic record may not fully reflect her ability. Her parents were divorced during her junior year, and, for several years before that, her home situation had been in turmoil with a great deal of fighting between her parents. Her father has an alcohol problem, and Jane certainly endured a great deal of emotional distress. The fact that she has been able to do as well as she has done given the circumstances says a lot about her. Now that the home situation has stabilized, her performance has improved. I believe her senior year grades are a much better reflection of her ability.
Critique: You may wonder whether or not the above information is appropriate in a letter of evaluation. It is! We appreciate anything that gives us insight and perspective into a student’s performance and the environment. Comments about problems that a student has experienced will help us understand the context in which they have accomplished whatever they have achieved. The extent to which they have dealt with these problems is useful to know as well.
I do not really know Mike very well. He has come to me for routine matters but generally has not had any problems that he has discussed with me. In this large school, I do not always have the time to personally get to know each of my advisees. From the comments I get from Mike’s teachers, I have the impression that he is one of the strongest students this school has seen.
Critique: We do not learn very much from this report, but we understand why. The counselor is very honest, and we are not left guessing as to the reason there is not more information and will turn our attention to other parts of the application.
Brian was in the top five in my class consistently. He is certainly motivated to study. His character and personality are admirable. Brian is an excellent student, hard worker and has above average reasoning ability.
Critique: This is an example of an evaluation in which we really don’t know what the writer is trying to tell us. The comments provided certainly do not give much substantive information. We are left wondering whether there is just not much to say about this student or whether the teacher just didn’t bother to put much effort into the recommendation. This is a situation where we will probably form our impressions based on the pattern of all the recommendations. If all are equally uninformative, we will assume there wasn’t much to say, but if the others are better, we will assume this teacher did not give much effort to the recommendation.
Are you a teacher Looking to write a letter of recommendation for your students? The letter of recommendation is the one part of the application that students don't have to . At the very least, plan to write thank-you notes.