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Tips for Strong Letters of Recommendation

For students thinking about getting letters of recommendation for their college application, it can tricky to figure out how to best go about the process. We are here to help answer all of your letter of rec questions, and guide you on how to be in the BEST position to receive strong letters! 


One of the first thing we notice is that students seem to think there is some kind of “silver bullet” or secret equation to getting a strong letter of recommendation. Really, all it boils down too is being a good “classroom citizen”. 

What does that mean? Well, it means you don’t necessarily have to have an “A” grade in a class to get a strong letter of recommendation. And in fact, you might have an A in a class and still NOT get a strong letter of recommendation, because the teacher doesn’t know you very well – you showed up, got good grades on tests, and that was that!


A letter of recommendation is NOT about your academic performance. Colleges learn about that through your transcripts, looking at the classes you signed up for, your standardized tests results – they have all kinds of ways to get information about what kind of student you are from an academic perspective. A letter of recommendation is about your character and your personality. 


I strongly recommend that you take a look at the Common Application recommendation form by clicking HERE. Scroll down to the “Recommendation Letter” section, and here you can see the suggestions of what your teachers will be invited to write about in your letter. They are things like maturity, integrity, concern for others, contributing to class discussions, etc.  So, knowing those are the factors your teacher will be writing about, a good classroom citizen is someone that is exhibiting all of those factors every day.


In fact, if you are struggling in a class, engaging in this type of positive behavior can be a really great way of building a strong relationship with your teacher. If they see that you are working toward really overcoming struggles in the class and grappling with the material, it shows a dedicated side to you as a student. Some of the best letters of recommendation we have seen is from students that asked their teachers for help, and really worked toward improving their grades and work in a class. 


Letters of recommendation are really just someone putting pen to paper and writing down what they know about your personality. If you think about all areas of your life, you always want to be behaving in a way that would invite people to say great and positive things about you, should someone ask! 


All the best, 

Team Insight 


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