Part of applying to college is demonstrating your personal qualities, in addition to all of your academic achievements. And nothing says good manners and thoughtfulness like a thank you letter!
There are two basic categories of people to whom you’ll send these. First, there are the people on your end — like people who wrote you letters of recommendation, your guidance counselor, and anyone else who went out of their way to help you. The other category is those on the college’s end, for example the person who interviewed you, your contact in the admissions office, or someone you met at a college fair.
There are some general tips that apply to all of your thank you letters, whether to people on your end or the college’s end.
- Keep it short. Think of this as more of a thank you note than a full letter.
- Personalize what you write. Don’t copy and paste a form letter and change nothing but the names.
- Email is fine! Don’t worry about sending a hard copy of the letter, unless that’s how you’ve done the rest of your communication with this particular person.
- If you aren’t sure how formal or casual to be, err on the side of formality.
For People on Your End:
On your end, you’ll want to thank anyone who agreed to write you a letter of recommendation, as well as anyone who has helped you with the college admissions process. This might be a guidance counselor, for example, or another school administrator who put time and effort into helping you with this.
Start off by expressing your (specific) thanks: “Thank you for taking the time to write a letter of recommendation for my college application,” for example.
Next, go on to be specific about how this person has shaped your journey, if this is applicable. For example, if you had a history teacher write a letter of recommendation, you could say something like, “As you know, it was your history class last year that made me consider history as a major, and I look forward to exploring that further in college.” If you have specific positive memories that really stand out, you can mention those too.
Finish off with another expression of gratitude, and offer to keep this person updated on your college admissions journey. If you’re writing to someone who composed a letter of recommendation for you, you could say something like, “I can’t wait to let you know which schools accepted me, and which one I finally attend!”
Then, of course, follow through on the promise to keep this person updated.
For People on the College’s End:
Writing to someone on the college’s end is a little different, because this is yet another opportunity to sell yourself. You want to express your gratitude, of course, but also to show your manners, consideration, and appreciation, and also to explain why you’re such a good fit for the school.
Again, start off with specifics. Give the person some context to remember who you are, all while thanking him or her: “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me at the college fair at West Coast High School this past weekend.”
From there, reference some specifics from the conversation. This also helps refresh this person’s memory, while demonstrating that you were engaged and interested enough in the conversation to remember it.
Wrap up with some positive words about the college itself, especially in light of what you learned from this person. For example, if the interviewer raved about how great her science classes were, you could write something like, “Hearing about your amazing experiences in your biology classes made me more sure than ever that Solano University is a great fit, since that’s my intended major. The close-knit, collaborative environment you described sounds like the perfect learning environment, and I hope to be part of it next year.”
Ideally, you should send this letter within a day or two of your interaction with this person. However, better late than never; don’t skip sending it entirely just because it’s been a week or two.
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