The Role Letters of Recommendation Play in College Admissions

By Brandie Erickson October 26, 2023 College Application Press

Early Action and Early Decision deadlines are right around the corner. As students gather all of their application material, including personal statements, supplemental essays, transcripts, standardized test scores, and letters of recommendation, they might wonder how everything gets evaluated. After all, it is easy to compare SAT scores or GPAs, but how do admission officers review more subjective aspects of the college application, like letters of recommendation?

Many selective colleges will require students to submit between one to three letters of recommendation. Who these letters are from can vary, but schools typically want one from your counselor and two teachers. Depending on the school, you can submit letters from people outside your school, like research mentors, managers at jobs, coaches, etc. As you create your college list, see what each school requires.

These letters of recommendation are submitted to the colleges when the student is applying. Just like with everything else you submit to colleges, it is important to be strategic about who you are asking for letters of recommendation and how many you are sending.

Whom To Ask

Typically, we recommend students ask two teachers from their junior year with whom they formed a good relationship. Junior year teachers will know you best and have seen you tackle higher-level material. It might also be a good idea to ask a teacher related to the major/career path you want to pursue in college.

For outside letters of recommendation, some students think asking an influential person from a university will help them get into that particular school. However, if they don’t know you well, the letter will not improve your candidacy and could, in fact, hurt you. It’s better to have recommendations from people who know you well and can speak deeply about your accomplishments.

When To Ask

At Moon Prep, we encourage our students to connect with their teachers at the end of their junior year to ask if they will write you a letter. This way, it gives them time to write a thoughtful letter detailing your accomplishments and good qualities.

Some schools limit the number of letters a teacher can write, so ask early so you aren’t disappointed later on.

You can read the full article here.