When You Want Teachers To Say Nice Things About You

Recommendations form another part of the admissions process. They allow adcoms to see you as an applicant from a different viewpoint. Some may ask you to submit one, others up to three. I suggest you submit at least two recommendations from different academic fields, even if the college only requires one. After all they will read whatever you send, so there’s nothing to lose.

On the other hand, PLEASE REFRAIN from submitting more than two additional letters. Additional letters usually don’t help much, and they might irritate the adcoms who may think you have a problem with following instructions. Your letters should be distinct; each new letter must mention a thing or two that isn’t stated in other letters.

It’s certainly tempting to send letters from everybody who loves you; the pastor at your church, the grocery storekeeper, etc. But it’s really pointless unless these people have a strong connection to the college.

What is a strong connection?

An alumni of the school is a strong connection. Your sister who has just graduated from there is a strong connection. A college trustee is a strong connection. Someone who donated a million dollars to the development fund is a strong connection. These letters can make a difference, but remember, only if you have the academic qualifications.

On the other hand, don’t send those letters just because they come from somebody important. Your recommender must be able to talk about you. A letter from the president of the United States won’t help much if he can’t talk more than two lines about you. If a letter starts with something like, “I don’t know much about Clara, but if she’s anything like her parents…” you can be sure your letter will most likely be discarded.

“…sign here if you wish to waive your right to see this document…”

You probably see that phrase is most colleges’ recommendations forms. This is your right as stated under the Buckley Amendment. Put simply, the US Congress has passed a Bill that gives you the right to see all documents pertaining to you once you matriculate at a college.
On the form, the college asks you if you want to waive your rights. If you do, you will not be able to see the documents even after you enter college. I strongly advise you to sign the waiver.

The reason is this: By signing the waiver, you are effectively telling your recommenders that you are confident of what they are going to say (since you won’t know if they wrote nasty things). Colleges see your confidence as a good sign. They will trust that the letter is more truthful and candid than if you had not sign the waiver. If you are concerned that your recommender might be negative in his or her recommendation, then that is a sign that you probably should find another person.

After you’ve given your teachers to sign the form, always provide them with stamped and addressed envelopes so as to make things easier for them. Approach them early and give them ample time to prepare your letters. Follow up once in a while.

Lastly, update your teachers on your admissions status. They’ve helped you write nice things about you, so you should keep them posted on your progress. It’s just pure courtesy.

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