Before the end of the junior year, your student should take the time to determine whom they will ask to write their letters of recommendation for college. This normally involves two teachers of core subjects and potentially an extracurricular activity or character reference.
Parents and students often make the mistake of thinking that the more important the person signing the letter, the better off the student is. For example, they will seek to get letters from people who don’t know their student: a U.S. Senator, an important alum of the university, a businessman, etc. Or they think that a professor at a local college would carry more weight than a high school teacher, even though the student was a member of a large class and never got to personally know the professor. Here’s a little secret:
It does not matter how important the recommender is. What matters is how important your student is to the recommender!
An impressive signature on the bottom of a very vague letter is not only not helpful, it is harmful. You’ve given up an important opportunity to communicate vital facts about your child.
The very best letters are those from teachers who are your child’s biggest fans, who care deeply that your child is successful in their college quest. Recommenders who have experience with your child inside and outside the classroom, have taught them for multiple years, have seen them struggle and succeed, who admire their leadership abilities are the kinds of people who tend to do the best job in advocating for your child. If your student has held down an impressive internship for that U.S. Senator, usually the best person to write the letter is the adult in the office that worked with them and knew them well.
If your student has an eager recommender that is not confident in their ability to write the very best letter possible, we’ve developed a resource to help!
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