7 Tips to Choosing the Right Recommenders For You: By a Former University of Chicago Admissions Officer
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7 Tips to Choosing the Right Recommenders For You:  By a Former University of Chicago Admissions Officer

7 Tips to Choosing the Right Recommenders For You: By a Former University of Chicago Admissions Officer

Here are some helpful tips for you to keep in mind for deciding on who to choose for writing your college recommendation letters:

  1. Choose someone who knows you well. A recommendation letter should provide specific examples and anecdotes that demonstrate your strengths and abilities, so it is important to choose someone who has observed you in a setting where you have shown growth and maturity. As you progress in your high school classes and interact with adults in special projects and extracurricular activities, be intentional about developing good relationships with them, so they can write you a stellar letter when college application season begins.
  2. Choose someone who can speak to your academic and leadership abilities. Whether it’s a teacher, boss, coach, or volunteer or research supervisor, pick someone who has seen your work firsthand. Bonus points if you can pick a teacher who can speak candidly and thoroughly about the way you have showcased progress over time about your academic progress or even emotional growth. It always helps to have someone who can vouch for your growth mindset and narrative or speak to how you became a more compassionate person over time. Plus, you don’t have to choose a teacher whose class you aced; it can also be helpful to pick someone who can provide evidence of how you overcame a difficulty. You want your letter writers to speak to your good character and provide details that give insight into your unique personality that isn’t obvious from your academic record.
  3. Choose intimacy over clout. Many students choose recommendation letter writers based on credibility, like a well-known professor or a respected industry leader. Here’s the thing though: admissions officers go through tons of applications and are not going to be that familiar with any big names (and they certainly don’t have the time to look them up). Unless it is someone everyone knows – think Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey – opt for someone who knows you more intimately and can attest to specific and detailed things about you. 
  4. Choose a recommender who you know will write a positive letter. While this may seem obvious, remember to choose someone who has a favorable opinion of you and can write a letter that will make you stand out to admissions officers. Most people will decline if they don’t feel they can say anything positive but you should always try to engage with them in a conversation to know for sure that they will be leaving you with a glowing review. As you might imagine, a negative recommendation letter is a massive red flag. 
  5. Avoid any potential conflict of interest. Make sure the person you choose to write your letter of recommendation is impartial and can give an honest assessment of your qualifications. This means no family members or close personal friends! Don’t waste your precious recommendation letters on friends or family members; remember, your goal is to demonstrate your readiness for college, which should be conveyed from more formal mentors. While it can feel intimidating to ask people in positions of authority for help, reaching out to others is a key skill to become a good college student and an independent adult. If you start learning how to speak confidently and honestly to those people in your life now, it will be easier to ask them for recommendations later.
  6. Give your recommender enough time. Do NOT wait until the last minute to ask for a letter of recommendation. I suggest giving at least a month's notice before the deadline to allow time for your person to write a good letter. Also, make sure to provide them with supplementary materials or information, such as a resume, that lists out all of your achievements and accolades they may not know about or remember. If you are asking a teacher, you may want to print out an extra copy of an assignment that you are especially proud of. As a professor, I recall a student doing this when she asked me to write her a recommendation letter. She came to my office hours and we chatted about the ways her mind had since expanded since she first completed the assignment. To say the least, I was very impressed with this gesture and made sure to mention this in the letter as a sign of her astute intellectual ability.
  7. Last but not least, show appreciation. After your recommendation letter is written, be sure to thank the person for their time and effort. Handwritten thank you notes are a wonderful gesture to offer to someone who assisted you in your college application journey.

Signing off,

Professor “T”

Professor “T” is a former visiting professor at Reed College, a former University of Chicago Admissions Officer, and a current Admissions Officer for another prestigious university that can’t be revealed (it’s one you all love!). 

Want a more personalized plan to get into the college of your dreams? We have worked with her and other admissions officers to put together a special package to help you gain admission into the school of your desire! Call or email us, and we can send you more details to get started for the 2023-2024 college season now!



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