Write a Perfect Thank You Letter
Part of applying to college is demonstrating your personal qualities, in addition to all of your academic achievements. Your behaviors and courtesy level reveal a surprising amount about your character. And nothing says good manners and thoughtfulness like a thank–you letter! Let’s go over the basics of how to write these important notes.
There are two basic categories of people to whom you’ll send these notes. 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.
General Tips on Writing Thank-You Letters for College Admissions
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. Detail and specificity are your friends.
- 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.
Note from Empowerly: Wondering whether to go traditional paper (card) or digital (email) for this message? That’s up to you and likely depends on your situation. In general, though, paper cards are more formal than emails. One helpful rule of thumb is to follow the organization’s style, and/or your method of interaction. For instance, if you have been conversing with someone via email, a digital message makes sense. If you met a college interviewer in person, however, a paper note might feel more appropriate.
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. Detail matters.
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. These personal touches make your thank-you letter all the more memorable.
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. The recipient of this note is not as familiar with you as a teacher or mentor. Therefore, you need to continue a good impression. You want to express your gratitude in the thank-you letter, 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 in your thank-you letter. 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.” This would be a great sentiment to express in a thank you letter for a college admission interview, as well.
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.
Find Your Perfect Thank-You Letter for College Admissions
College applications demand quite a lot of work from students and families. It can even feel like there’s no time left in the day to work on personal growth. However, learning these critical skills (like how to write a proper thank you letter) will serve you well beyond college admissions. As you enter the workforce and beyond, these skills become increasingly valuable.
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