Recommendation Letters: A Powerful Tool in Your Application Arsenal

Thinking your grades may not hold up for admission to a prestigious, private university?  Think again!

While colleges absolutely consider GPA as a factor for admission, not all of us are straight-A super-students who dedicate countless hours in extracurricular activities.  Like many high school students, you may have struggled for a solid B average.  That fight will certainly reflect itself within another important aspect of the admission process:  letters of recommendation.

There are Different Types of Recommendation Forms?

A number of colleges indicate that you must submit one or multiple recommendations with your application including:

  • Teacher Evaluation/Recommendation
  • Optional/Other Recommendation
  • Peer Evaluation/Recommendation

Teacher recommendations are by far the most common, but coaches or even employers definitely may put together a similar letter, singing your praises.  Those types of forms are no less significant, but some colleges may specify they only desire teacher evaluations.  Make sure to check before you begin planting the recommendation seeds in their minds.  However, you may need more than one type of letter for different schools, so having such variety may work in your favor.

What Colleges Want

Let’s take one well-known establishment as an example during your college search:  Stanford.

When scanning over the admission requirements, you notice the “Teacher Evaluations” section of their website.  It states that in order to be considered as a candidate, two teacher evaluations are needed.

According to their admissions page, they suggest asking instructors within your 11th or 12th grade years who teach English, Math, Science, Foreign Language and/or History.  Instead of hard copies, Stanford prefers online forms and indicates they must fill out a “Common Application Teacher Evaluation Form” along with a letter of evaluation (or recommendation).  Also, they allow an optional letter from a non-educational source.  This proves high praise from a mentor or boss is equally important and may tip the scale in your favor.

Don’t Fear!

What does this mean?  For high school students who want to strive for a university like Stanford, but don’t possess a spotless record, the fact that they place so much emphasis on an area that’s not entirely academic should prompt you to consider submitting an application.  They are searching for well-rounded, persevering individuals, not straight-A robots, like many students perceive.

While you may only have B’s and a handful of A’s, yet proved yourself by attending after-school study sessions and calling upon your teachers for extra help, Stanford will likely be impressed by your determination to succeed.  Letters of recommendation by teachers who recognize your personality and hard work ethic are ideal for your application.

So remember to step back, take a deep breath, and realize that colleges don’t necessarily want perfection.  If you’re a hard worker with strong recommendations to back you up, any college is possible.

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