Letter of recommendation

Letter of recommendation

Letters of Recommendations: Tips & Tricks


Most programmes and schools will require letters of recommendation as part of your application. Selecting the individuals who will write these letters is incredibly important. You want to be sure that you choose people who not only know you well, but who can speak to the relevant, positive aspects of your character and experience. This is a great opportunity to choose individuals whose collective recommendations can paint a full picture of who you are, and what you bring to the table.


A good first step would be to think of your strongest characteristics. What do you want a school to know about you? Then think about the individuals who would be most qualified to speak to these different aspects.


Each recommendation should be from an individual who is either actively involved in your life, or who can speak to your current character or recent experiences. That’s just to say that a recommendation from someone who worked with you five years ago would likely not be as powerful as someone who is familiar with your work from last semester.


You should also think about the people in your life that would write the most compelling recommendations. If there are a couple different people who can speak to your leadership abilities, think about who would write most eloquently or who knows you on a personal level. Tone can go a long way.


When it comes to identifying the best individuals to write their recommendations, most people will immediately think of the professor from the class in which they are receiving the highest marks. And while this is certainly a great place to start, there are many other individuals in your life who you may not be thinking of. In fact, looking for interviews outside of the classroom may be helpful in demonstrating that you are a well-rounded individual with multiple talents and interests.


One important note: Be sure that you look specifically at the requirements for each application. Some may specify different numbers of recommendations, or have certain criteria such as including an individual who works in a particular department. Beyond that, here are some ideas of the different individuals in your life who may be able to write you fantastic recommendations. At Karan Gupta Consulting we help you pitch your strong points to recommenders so that you get the highest quality recommendation letters.


Start with your guidance counsellor.

Think of leadership in your school—beyond professors—who know you on a personal level and can speak to your character and accomplishments. Anyone who works in the Guidance department will be very familiar with the application process and will know what makes a great recommendation letter. Your guidance counsellor can also point you in the direction of teachers who think highly of you, or those who are known to write strong letters.  


Highlight your extracurricular activities.

Are you active in science club? Did you have a part in your school’s last musical? Do you play on any sport teams? Think about asking a coach or advisor to write a letter for you. Highlighting your personal interests can also help set you apart from the competition by demonstrating your strengths beyond the traditional classroom setting.


Think outside of the (school) box.

School is just one part of your life. How do you spend the rest of your time? Do you have a job or do any volunteering? Are there any passion projects that you have taken on that someone could speak to? Think of the individuals that you have worked with professionally, or perhaps someone at a local or religious organisation who knows you well, and can speak to your capabilities and experience.  


Look to your closest friends.

Some schools will ask for a peer recommendation. Regardless, this could be a good supplement to your application, and a good way to offer a number of different perspectives. With that said, a peer recommendation should be supplementary; make sure that you also include a strong advisor or academic recommendation as well.


Hopefully this will get you thinking about some good options for recommendation letters. Another helpful step would be to ask your friends, family or counsellor about who they think would be a good reference for you. These individuals know you well, and might come up with someone that you haven’t thought of yet, or know that a certain person thinks particularly highly of you.


Make sure you are aware of deadlines so you can give each person writing you a letter plenty of time to prepare. You should also keep in mind that other students will likely be working against a similar timeframe as you, and certain individuals may be bombarded with requests for letters of recommendation. Try to think at least a month ahead of time, and be sure to give a reminder when the deadline is about a week away.


And finally, have confidence. There are many people in your life that want to see you succeed, and would be happy to help you realise your dreams. They will be pleased that you have thought of them to help you along this path. Just remember to thank them for their time and kind words!


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