You know your kid is great. He or she is dedicated, motivated, and driven, not to mention a dozen other equally impressive adjectives. Unfortunately, parents can’t (or at least shouldn’t) write letters of recommendation for their kids. Sorry.
When preparing to apply to colleges, many high school students (and their parents) make the mistake of not giving enough thought to their letters of recommendation requests. After all, the process seems simple enough. Just ask for a letter. Ah, but what if you want a great one?
Here are three tips to help your child get a wonderful letter of recommendation:
To start, students should show the teacher they’re great. That means working hard throughout the course of the year. If – like 99% of students – your kid plans to ask a teacher from his or her junior year, take a moment to chat about progress in the teacher’s class. Your future world leader/astronaut/nuclear physicist doesn’t necessarily have to have aced the class or have a spectacular student-mentor relationship, but… those things never hurt.
Know thy writer.
Ensure the letter-writer believes in the student’s abilities and knows what makes him or her unique. Hopefully, all that comes through in the letter. You definitely don’t want your kid to be the one who says, “Hiya, I sit in the back of your class and never participate. Can you write me a letter of recommendation?” That never goes well, so encourage your child to engage with teachers and study hard. Teachers are paying attention and not everyone gets the same letter.
Most teachers are going to know how to pen an effective letter of recommendation. This isn’t their first rodeo. And while it’s not good manners to offer unsolicited suggestions, should the teacher ask if there’s anything in particular the student would like covered, kindly remind them that whatever the topic ends up being — an inspired class project, a stellar essay in the student paper, a meaningful role in student government — details are key. It’s the details that make a letter stand out, illustrate the teacher’s relationship to the student, and help the colleges get a better sense of the student’s personality and passions.
Know thy calendar.
It’s March, so there’s no need to ask for a letter quite yet. But as second-semester continues, keep these things in the back of your mind. Then, in a few months, when it does come time to ask for a letter, odds are your choice will be more than happy to help. Just be sure not to wait until the last minute.
Remember — you can’t write these letters yourself, but you can help your kids pick the right mentor and encourage them to continue to do their best during this all-important academic year.
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