Tips for Writing College Recommendation Letters

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When your teen applies to colleges, he may need to submit one or more letters of recommendation with the application packet. I’d like to share some tips to consider as you guide your teen through the letter of recommendation process.

Many colleges ask homeschooled students to supply letters of recommendation from outside teachers rather than from parents. As a parent and one who has taught many of your teen’s courses, you may want to include with the letters of recommendation your own assessment of your child’s academic strengths. Some colleges may read this letter.

When thinking about letters of recommendation, my advice would be:

1.  Have your child request letters of recommendation from others who know him and his academic/character qualities well. Give your teen the responsibility to contact these letter writers.

2.  Give the letter writers plenty of lead time so they don’t feel rushed and can put some thoughtful time into writing the letter of recommendation.

3.  Follow the college’s instructions regarding the recommendation letters; Does the college want the letter sent to it directly from the letter writer? Or is the letter to be included with the student’s application all in one package?

Again, choose the outside instructors who you feel know your teen best from an academic perspective. Whomever you choose, you may want to provide the person with some suggestions regarding academic strengths, and ask the recommender to be as specific as possible when indicating your teen’s strengths. Teacher tips from the College Board can be found here.

>> The College Board recommends that students give recommenders a self assessment so that the letter writers have the information they need to write a great letter. The College Board also provides good information for your student to keep in mind when supplying colleges with letters of recommendation. 

>> A recent HLSDA high school email newsletter was on the topic of letters of recommendation and may be helpful to you (HSLDA username and password required to access the info).

>> Although this link is specifically for high school guidance counselors (who write many letters of recommendation), it also contains helpful “do’s and don’ts” for others.

Of course, the final tip for your student to secure a great letter of recommendation is to work hard, study diligently, and make a favorable impression on all of his course instructors – including his parents!


Photo Credit: Photo from Pixabay, graphic design by Charity Klicka.

One thought on “Tips for Writing College Recommendation Letters

  1. Make sure that you have the correct information and spelling of the person or department that you are giving the letter of recommendation to. You are not giving yourself or the person you are recommending any credit by having the wrong information. If there is not a specific person to contact, use “To Whom It May Concern”. Ask the person you are writing the recommendation for what they are applying for and perhaps a little bit about the business/department. This will help you to craft a letter that will share the specific information needed by the receiver and reflects highly on you as well as a competent referral.


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