Selecting a College Application Recommender

Selecting a College Application Recommender
Stanley B. Lemons
Stanley B. Lemons

Whom should your child ask to write his or her college application recommendation letter? A number of parents (and their students) ask this question. The question typically arises during the fall semester or trimester of a student’s senior year of high school – a time when thousands of students gear up to apply to college.

While most colleges have their unique requirements for the recommendation letter, there are generally three categories of recommenders that your student will want to choose from.

Category 1

There is the preferred, if not required, category of recommenders that a college, or its college admissions office in particular, might include in that school’s application guidelines. A math, science, or English teacher is often listed in the preferred recommender category. Why? These educators can typically speak to a student’s skill-set in subject areas that are commonly believed to be at the core of student success in the classroom — reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Equally important, if your student plans to pursue a college major that is, for illustrative purposes, related to math, such as engineering or accounting, then a recommendation letter from your child’s math teacher stands to be helpful. But again, a college admissions office will most likely specify the type or category of recommender that the institution requires.

Category 2

The second category of recommenders is associated with individuals who can write about your student’s role or participation in an extracurricular activity. Does your child play a sport? Participate in the band? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then your student might identify a recommender who can provide a firsthand account of the student’s participation and role in the respective extracurricular activity.

Category 3

The third and final category of college application recommenders is more general, possibly including someone from either the first or second category. That is to say, your student should ask a potential recommender who knows the student well, i.e. a recommender who can share specific examples or situations in support of your student’s application. One tip to aid a recommender in writing a more detailed and effective letter of recommendation is for your child to supply the recommender with a resume or list of accomplishments or both.

It’s important to remember that the college recommendation letter is only one of several components involved in the college admissions process. Don’t stress. Encourage your child to take the all-important first step of identifying and asking potential recommenders. Then, from that point going forward, your student should turn his or her attention to the other parts of the college application, as well as to continue focusing on doing well in the classroom and enjoying the remaining months of high school.