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How To Request an Online College Recommendation Letter

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Since most online schools do not require in-person interviews, admissions officials pay particular attention to the college recommendation letter. Your college recommendation letter will be used to evaluate your strengths and determine whether or not you’re a good fit for the school. This article will show you how to choose an effective writer and submit a persuasive college recommendation letter.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 2 hours +

Here's How:

  1. Make a list of potential recommendation letter writers. Before asking anyone to write your college recommendation letter, take the time to consider all of your choices. Write down the following names:
    • former teachers
    • current teachers
    • counselors
    • employers
    • volunteer supervisors
    • others who have observed your strengths in an academic or professional setting

  2. Choose the best. Review your list and choose the person that will write the best college recommendation letter. You should be 100% certain that the person selected will write positively about you. It is also important that the recommender is reliable with deadlines and a capable writer. Avoid people you have a more casual relationship with, as well as those who only know you on a superficial level. Remember: the most obvious choice isn’t always the best.

  3. Follow the admissions office procedures. Each online college sets its own standards for the delivery of admissions letters. Some require recommenders to mail the letters directly to school offices; some require prospective students to mail the letters in sealed envelopes with their applications. Before talking to your chosen recommender, find out what your school requires. If your school has strict procedures, make sure to communicate those with the recommender and make is as easy as possible to follow. For example, if the recommender must mail the letter, you will want to provide an addressed, stamped envelope.

  4. Ask the recommender in-person or over the phone. If you live near the writer, it is best to ask in-person. If not, take the time to ask in a personal phone call. Don’t tell the writer your deadline for turning in the college recommendation letter. Instead, say: “I need the letter (or the letter must be mailed) by this date.” Set your must-have date at least three weeks before the school’s application deadline.

  5. Send the recommender helpful information. Once the letter writer agrees, give him a small packet of information that he can use when writing the college recommendation. This will help him remember your strengths and give him some material to work with. Include the following documents in the packet: your college application essay, your personal statement, your resume, and a list of ways you are connected to the recommender (i.e. you were in the top 10% of his Calculus course). Highlight any information that is particularly important.

  6. Remind your letter writer of the deadline. As the recommender’s deadline nears, send a friendly note reminding him that the letter is needed. Be sure to ask if he has any questions or needs further material (such as transcripts)to complete the college recommendation.

  7. Follow-up with a thank-you note. Once the writer completes your college recommendation letter, follow-up with a formal, hand-written thank-you note. Let him know how much you appreciate the time and effort that was spent on your behalf.

Tips:

  1. Ask your recommender at least a month before your admissions deadline. This will give you a buffer in case anything goes wrong.
  2. Express your excitement to the recommender. If he knows how much being accepted to this school means to you, he may be more thoughtful when writing your letter.
  3. Respond to the recommender’s questions. If he asks what you’d like to see in the letter, don’t be afraid to speak up.

What You Need

  • the college's recommendation letter guidelines
  • a copy of your application essay
  • a copy of your personal statement
  • your resume
  • a list of strengths the recommender has observed
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