It’s that time of year again: students are starting to come to you for recommendation letters for their college applications. It’s understandable to feel pressure to make the best letter that you can, but it’s easier than you might think to come up with a good letter of recommendation. Here are 8 quick tips to get you started.
1. In the first paragraph, address the student’s academic accomplishments. Did they he AP or Dual Credit courses? How did he do with those?
2. Tell the things that the committee can’t see in the transcript. Do other students and teachers like and respect this student? How has he or she earned respect?
3. Address character traits. Does she have a good work ethic? Has she shown initiative or tenacity?
4. Just like we tell our students to, try to use action words or descriptive words whenever possible. “I enthusiastically recommend this student” vs “I recommend this student” for your scholarship.
5. If you are able, talk about the interaction you have had with him. Is he a member of a club you advise? Do you notice him being kind to underclassmen in the hall?
6. Put it on letterhead!
Nothing is less attractive than a great letter on plain paper with just your name on it. If applicable, make sure it is the current version with that year’s administration information.
7. Save all your letters for students in a recommendation letter folder on your computer. You can look back at your best ones or see how you worded one for a particular scholarship. I have a folder for recommendation letters by class year (2014 Seniors) and a folder for each of my customized letters where I spoke specifically about a financial need, a talent or another individualized topic.
8. Print it and sign it. If you can, do a “To whom it may concern,” which I do whenever possible, I print a few copies, sign them right then and there, and file them, so whenever the student needs it again, it’s ready and waiting.