How to Get a Good Letter of Recommendation

How to Get a Good Letter of Recommendation

Colleges request letters of recommendation as part of the application package because they want to know what contributions you can make to the college and get another perspective on what kind of student they may accept. I’ve compiled a list of tips and things to remember to ensure your student gets the letter of recommendation they need. 

How to choose a Recommender: I often have parents ask if they or a family member can write their student’s letter of recommendation. While a family member is a convenient and easy choice, many colleges prefer to hear from someone outside of the student’s family.  Think teachers, counselors, club advisors, volunteer coordinators, employers, or mentors. Letters that are written with a letterhead that identifies the writer’s affiliation are ideal. 

Homeschool students will find recommenders in their home-school cooperatives, community, church, online classes, home-school groups, sports teams, and if applicable, AP, CLEP, or community college instructors. 

When to ask for your letter: Recommenders may have busy schedules, so it is advisable to ask for a letter of recommendation at least three weeks in advance of the deadline. In addition, be sure to send a thank-you note to the recommender after he or she has submitted the letter. 

What to give your Recommender: Nowadays, time is of the essence. Your recommender is likely busy with work and their personal life. Teachers, who are commonly student’s picks for recommenders, are particularly overburdened and likely do not have the time to compose extensive reference letters. Do not expect your teacher, coach, employer or pastor to remember what you want emphasized in their recommendation. This is where providing a student brag sheet is key.

Students should give a copy of their resumes to recommenders and highlight any activity, academic success, and/or character trait to be recognized. Provide them with an additional list of your accomplishments. Do not write the recommendation for them, but do provide enough information to make it easy for them to compose the letter.


Cheryl Carter has helped many students get into the college of their choice. Her advice is always practical and strategic. She prides herself on giving parents “the homeschool advantage” college admission advice.

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