Empowerly’s Guide to Letters of Recommendation

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Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

Since standardized tests became largely absent from the college application process, qualitative assessments matter more and more. Assessments like essays, which are self-written, provide insight into your thinking. Assessments like letters of recommendation, however, testify to your qualities in day-to-day work from an external perspective. Can you see why they matter so much to college admissions? Today, we’re proud to share the official Empowerly’s Guide to Letters of Recommendation to take some of the nerves out of the equation.

Who should I ask?

While this is one of the most common questions, the answer is nuanced! Unfortunately, there is no universal answer. There are factors to consider that will influence your best choices greatly.

For example, does the application specify who you should ask? Most applications will specify if they prefer a teacher, coach, or other kind of recommender; some will even go so far as to request teachers from specifically 11th or 12th grade, or teachers that taught specific subjects.

Beyond the base requirements, however, we also wrote up all of our tips on how to find the best person!

What can I do? Doesn’t the recommender do all the work?

Actually, there’s plenty for students to do in advance of requesting a letter of recommendation.

Our tips include:

  • Forming a meaningful relationship (and steps on how to do so!)
  • Shaping recommendations
  • Structured vs. unstructured materials
  • Brainstorming questions
  • and even, tips on writing a great thank-you note.

Ultimately, this guide is here to help you figure out who (and how) to ask. We’ll give you a rough timeline, so you’re not rushed at the last minute. And we’ll explain why exactly these letters are so important to students and admissions officers alike.

Here is Empowerly’s Guide to Letters of Recommendation:

Go ahead, download it! This is Empowerly’s Guide to Letters of Recommendation. This guide provides pointers from start to finish.

We’re proud to provide this knowledge free of charge to any student who needs help. Read through it, share it with friends, post it on social media, and reference it any time.

This is a preview of what you’ll find inside…

When to Begin?

Truthfully, think about starting this process the summer before 9th grade and constantly add to it! Google Docs and other cloud-based programs allow you to archive and easily update and locate a resume. Each summer, reflect on the activities from the prior school year and update it. In all grades, students will find worth in connecting to mentors and teachers in a meaningful way; so, building these relationships early on will never be a waste of time.

Don’t worry; if you’re just getting started later in the game, we have tips for you, too.

Brag Sheet 101

Have you ever heard of a “brag sheet?”

A brag sheet is a helpful tool that digs a bit more into your motivations, goals, and personality. It provides a cheat sheet of sorts that the teacher can work off of, if they want to. Don’t worry, we include sample questions for your brag sheet to get you started!

Similarly, our guide includes other materials that you can prepare before even asking for a letter of recommendation. Once you think through these prompts and collect your resources, you’ll be well on your way.

You can find all this and more in Empowerly’s Guide to Letters of Recommendation. We know that recommendations, or even reference letters, are useful throughout life. In your career, you’ll likely want to revisit some of these key tips as well! Keep this guide handy to stay ahead of the game.

Still not sure how to get started?

That’s what we are here for! We are happy to answer your questions about how to get started with the Empowerly team. Click the link below or give us a call to set you up with a complimentary consultation session where we can share more information about our program and approach. The Empowerly counselors have experience helping with every part of the college application, including the standardized testing process.

Book your consult today.

Questions? Let us know!