Five Steps to Securing Standout Letters of Recommendation for Your College Apps | St. Lawrence University

Five Steps to Securing Standout Letters of Recommendation for Your College Apps

Monday, February 22, 2021

If you’re a high school senior planning to attend college next fall, you’re probably spending some time checking everything you need to apply off your list. The good news is, lots of colleges and universities have similar requirements: the application itself, an essay, maybe a supplement, your high school transcript (of course), test scores (unless you’re applying to test optional schools like St. Lawrence) and letters of recommendation.

While you control what goes into your essay and supplemental questions, you don’t have as much control over your letters of recommendation. That can be scary! Following the five steps below can help you secure strong letters that make your application stand out and allow us to get to know you better.

1. Ask teachers who are excited to advocate for you.

This might sound obvious, but the first step to strong letters of recommendation is choosing your strongest advocates to write them. We want to hear from teachers who inspired and motivated you with enjoyable classes in which you excelled!

We’re sure your club advisor, best friend, and coach have wonderful things to say about you, but recommendation letters are meant to provide context for each individual student and their transcript. These letters tell us what you might be like in a college classroom. Do you contribute to class discussions? Are you fully engaged in your work?  Are assignments completed and carefully detailed?  Questions like this reiterate the importance of asking a teacher that knows you as a student and enjoyed teaching you!

2. Ask early!

We all know how busy teachers are. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your teachers have all the information they need (see step number three) plus the time to write individualized letters. Once you ask your teachers and they agree to write letters on your behalf, let your guidance counselor know so they can work with your chosen teachers to meet deadlines.

When it comes to the actual asking, you should request letters well ahead of your deadlines. We believe the best time to request letters is in the spring of your junior year.

To ensure you get your letters before your deadline, be proactive! Check in with your teachers throughout the rest of your junior year and during the summer to make sure they are on track.

3. Provide your teachers with a resume and remind them of your academic and co-curricular achievements. 

When asking teachers for letters of recommendation, it’s important to equip them with all the information they’ll need to craft a letter that shines. Create a resume and provide copies of your strongest papers, projects, or assignments. Pointing out assignments that you liked or successful exams can only help them as they begin their writing process.

4. Ask your teachers to check for your correct name and pronouns.

Share your preferred name and pronouns with your chosen teachers and ask them to double check that they are correct in your letters before submitting. Often, we’ll get letters of recommendation with name switches or the wrong pronouns! Double or triple checking can never hurt.

5. Thank everyone who wrote you a letter.

Once your prospective college(s) confirm that they receive your letters, it’s important to properly thank each teacher that advocated for you. We love to receive hand-written correspondence in our office, so we encourage you to follow-up with a personalized, hand-written note to let them know how much you appreciate their time.

Follow these steps and you’re sure to secure brilliant letters of recommendation. Our Admissions team can’t wait to read them! As we get to know you, we hope you’ll spend some time getting to know us too. We’re excited to help you discover a great adventure at St. Lawrence, and there are multiple ways to get in touch. You can schedule an interviewconnect with a current studenttake a virtual tour, or attend an info session on campus. If you’re not sure where to begin, our Discover SLU page is a great place to start.