letters of recommendation meeting

Make the Most of Your Letters of Recommendation

Applicants to elite colleges often underestimate the importance of recommendation letters. Over 15% of elite institutions view recommendations as “highly important” in admissions decisions and about half consider them “moderately important”. You should consider letters of recommendation to be as vital to successful admissions as essays or extracurricular activities.

Admissions officials at Ivy League and other elite colleges form a holistic picture of an applicant beyond quantifiable measures. They assume that if your teachers, who know you well, speak glowingly of you… you are that much more likely to contribute positively to their academic programs and campus community.

As the first step in an engagement, your IvySelect consultant works with you to develop your college admissions strategy. Having a strategy enables you to present the most positive image of yourself to a college and to maintain a consistent “marketing” message throughout the application process. As a key component of your application, your letters of recommendation should be consistent with your application-wide marketing message.

When soliciting letters of recommendation, it’s advantageous to submit your requests early in the school year so that your teachers have ample time to write a cogent, detailed account of your contributions and potential. IvySelect helps you to identify the recommenders best able to support and advance your strategy. We assist you in writing the pieces that will guide them to produce letters that suit your purposes. Some recommenders, due to their busy schedules, will accept a draft written by you to facilitate their writing of the letter. Many of them will produce a final letter that reflects your original text almost verbatim. But at a minimum, you should provide recommenders with your resume and an overview of your academic goals. Your IvySelect college consultant will also provide you with templates of letters and forms that you can use to write a document that highlights your background, talents, goals and contributions in class, which will help your teacher write a highly effective letter of recommendation. These documents enable recommenders to create a more thorough and strategically consistent narrative that will be more useful to admissions officials and therefore more helpful to your cause.

We advise that you seek recommenders who are relevant and recent. For example, request a recommendation from a teacher in your primary area of academic interest. Admissions officers prefer an opportunity to review letters that attest to your aptitude in your planned major field of study. Also, you might want to obtain a letter from an English teacher because writing proficiency has been proven to promote success in most collegiate fields of study. The letters you request should be from 11th grade or 12th grade teachers, as admissions officers want to learn about your recent academic history.

Colleges rely on letters of recommendation because they provide context to an applicant’s profile in ways that other submitted material and data cannot. A letter can reinforce your strong points that are stated elsewhere in your application, and, at the same time, reveal additional positive characteristics that are not presented elsewhere. In doing so, a strategy-consistent letter can give an admissions officer the justification he or she needs to prefer your application to otherwise comparable ones.

As usual, we advise you not to overdo it. Only submit the requested number of letters of recommendation. Admissions officers must fight through piles and piles of documentation, so too many letters may not be appreciated.

The depth of experience of IvySelect enables us to understand the nuances of the admissions processes of every elite college and university. We empower you with this knowledge. Among the many ways in which we contribute to the achievement of your educational goals, we help you make the most of your letters of recommendation.