How to get a good recommendation for admission

Now that we’ve determined you don’t want to send a college (or specifically me) hundreds of uninformative recommendations, what do you want to send?

The ideal recommender is a recent teacher in an academic class where you had to work hard but got a great grade, and who knows you well and likes you. That’s quite a bit to live up to, particularly if you a) rarely work hard or b) are fairly unlikable. As a result, there are obvious trade offs, but get as much of the combination as you can. The most important part is finding a teacher that knows you well and likes you (with condolences to those of you actualy are really unlikable). That accomplished, at least one teacher should focus on what they know best, what kind of student you are. Otehr information is ok, but you don’t want them spending pages about what a wonderful smile you have, and missing the one thing you really need them to get across – that you’ll be a great college student.

Once you have that teacher and he or she talks about you as a student, other recommendations can focus on other aspects of your abilities – such as a coach talking about how determined you are, a clergy person talking about your dedication, a boss talking about your sense of responsibility. It always cracks me up that you get students who have a bunch of recommendations that all say really similar stuff – looking like the student handed each writer a list of stuff to cover, or even a smaple letter. As a result, you get weird results like a boss from the local french fry hut talking about your keen academic ability, or a french teacher talking about your incredible faith (without ever going to your church, or giving any evidence they’ve ever even had a conversation on the topic with you).

What I’m saying is that recommendations that are believable are more useful. Ones that show different aspects of your talents/passions/abilities are better than being repetitive, and ones written by those more likely to know things about you are stringer than ones from unlikely sources. I think that’s all pretty obvious, but I’ll still end up with ten almost oerfect copies about how Suzy is such a DELIGHT i just HAVE to admit her. Of course, lukcy for me, I don’t…

Next up – a few words about the better ways to get one of these wonderful recommendations. Be seeing you.


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