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Every year, colleges receive applications upon applications—many qualified candidates vying for few spots. Though stellar test scores and a killer GPA will advance you towards the head of the pack, colleges also want to see who you are as a person. This is where recommendation letters come in. They give context to your skills and achievements and allow admissions officers to see a more fleshed-out portrait of you as an individual. Don’t miss this opportunity! Keep reading to learn how to get recommendation letters that will allow you to shine.


Most colleges will request two recommendation letters, one from a teacher and one from a guidance counselor. You obviously want to get a teacher who will craft the best portrait of you. This could be a teacher you’ve formed a strong relationship with—maybe your freshman year English teacher really got you, and you’ve stayed in touch with her. Alternately, if your heart is set on being a Math major, you could try to get a recommendation from a Calculus teacher who you don’t know quite as well but who can attest to your abilities in that area.


Most importantly, ask early! Teachers will not look kindly on a frantic request launched at them sometime in October of Senior year. The best time to ask is towards the end of your Junior year. This will give teachers plenty of time to get their letters in even before Early Application deadlines.

Even before the end of Junior year, make sure you are cultivating relationships. It’s a little trickier with guidance counselors simply because you see them less often. Most of them advise hundreds of students, so make sure you stop in and see them every so often so they have more than a vague idea of who you are.

And don’t forget to say thank you! Bonus points if you give them a handwritten note.


Give teachers and counselors a brag sheet. This document is a way for you to, well, brag about how great you are! Unlike a transcript, it won’t just give a list of grades and statistics. Instead, it’s a way for you to contextualize all of your interests and achievements. It should include aspects like your intellectual hobbies, extracurriculars, sports competitions, internship experience, etc. Basically, it will be easier for teachers and counselors to write about you if they have a vibrant picture of you in front of them.

In the end, a glowing recommendation letter can be the extra boost your application might need. Don’t go it alone! We’ve been in the education business for years and know the ins and outs of the test prep and college admissions process. From gearing up for college entrance exams to crafting a dynamic personal statement, our Education Specialists will provide you with the best guidance possible. Contact us today to learn more!

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