Boost Your College Admission Chances with Solid Recommendation Letters

It’s pretty typical these days for colleges and universities to request a couple of recommendation letters from credible people who know you well, in and out of school. Ideally, these should be written by someone who can articulate your skills, personality, and accomplishments. College admissions tend to value letters of recommendation because they show that there are people who are willing to “brag” about you, they reveal things from an outsider’s perspective about you that test scores, grades, and a personal essay won’t, and they provide a personal opinion of your character. In short, they can go a long way in helping admissions determine whether you are a good fit for their school.

When Should I Ask for Recommendations?

Starting as early as possible is the best, because it gives your references more time to craft a solid recommendation letter for you. If you ask when a ton of other students are requesting letters as well, you risk getting lost in the shuffle as references rush to pump out letters. References are much more likely to spend more time painting an accurate picture of your good qualities in and out of the classroom, and you as a well-rounded individual if you ask early on. If you plan to ask a teacher, keep in mind that they often prefer to write recommendations during the summer when classes are not in session.

Are you applying for early decision or early action? If so, you’ll want to ask for these recommendations by the start of your senior year or earlier to get them in time.

Who Do I Ask?

There are plenty of people you may turn to for recommendation letters. Here are a few connections you may want to reach out to for one:


  • Consider asking a teacher that knows you in and out of the classroom. For example, a teacher who advised your debate club could make an awesome reference.
  • A teacher who has known you for a while and can provide a better in-depth recommendation for you, rather than one that’s only known you for a short period of time.

Sports coach

  • If you are involved in athletics and have a close relationship with your coach, then your coach may be able to shed some light on your talent and abilities outside of the classroom.

School counselor

  • Have you spent time in high school getting to know your school counselor and building a solid relationship with him or her? If so, then they may also be able to write a strong recommendation letter for you!


  • If you are working a part-time job and have a healthy professional relationship with your boss, then asking him or her for a letter of recommendation would be appropriate. He or she should be able to articulate your strengths in the workplace, as well as your character and personality overall.

If a college is asking for more than one recommendation letter, it’s wise to ask a variety of people. Instead of asking two to three teachers, you may consider requesting letters from one teacher, one employer, and one coach, for example. Though this isn’t required, it would provide admissions officers the opportunity to get to know you from multiple perspectives.

Tips for Getting the Best Recommendations

Keep in mind that references might be writing a plethora of letters for a variety of students. Make their job easier by distinguishing yourself, even if you think they already know you well enough. It doesn’t hurt to remind them of your achievements and potential and jog their memory. In addition to asking early, here are some tips for getting the best letter of recommendation for your college application:

  • Be aware of deadlines for each college. Organization and preparedness will go a long way in making the process much less hectic for your references and yourself.
  • If asking a teacher, remind them about your class participation, and tell them what you’ve learned in class.
  • Remind your references of specific projects or work you’ve done and are proud of.
  • Mention any challenges you’ve faced, and how you’ve overcome them.
  • Follow up with references a week or so before the recommendation letters are due, so that you can ensure that they have been sent out on time.
  • Provide your references with addressed and stamped envelopes for each college.
  • If asking a counselor or school official, be sure to make an appointment ahead of time.
  • Share your accomplishments, plans for college and the future, and hobbies outside of school.
  • If you’ve had a hard time at any point in high school, a counselor may be able to discuss how you’ve changed and improved since then.
  • After getting admitted and deciding on which college to attend, write your references thank you notes to show your gratitude and appreciation for their support, and to let them know where you’ll be continuing your education.