how to write college letter of recommendationLetters of recommendation can be potent weapons in your fight to be accepted. For one thing, they are not written by you, which means you were impressive enough that someone else volunteered to write the letter on your behalf. This gives it a lot of heft with admissions committees. But it also means you do not want to just leave it up to your recommender to come up with something good.

To make sure your letter of recommendation hits all the right notes, you’ll want to coach them and give them the information they need to make it a home run. What information should you give them? Funny you should ask. We have a list five things below that you’ll want to highlight in your letter recommendation:

1. Penchant for service

College admissions committees love service. It speaks to a powerful combination of work ethic, trustworthiness, maturity, and selflessness that too few high schoolers possess.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no shortage of high schoolers who pay attention in class, go home and hit the books, and then come back the next day with all their work done. These are a dime a dozen for college admissions committees. But precious few high schooler actually take the time to serve others. This means, if you’ve got that experience, you’ll want to encourage whoever is writing your letter to mention it.

2. Talents

Another item that can set you apart from the pack are your talents and, by extension, any accomplishments in those talents. Why, you may ask, do a bunch of college administrators care if you can play the banjo or juggle chainsaws?

There are a few reasons. First, it makes you unique. Second, it shows that you have broader interests than just schoolwork or video games. And finally, it shows that you’ve worked hard. Again, work ethic for these admissions guys means that you will have what it takes to finish your program.

So make sure to mention to your recommender what talents you have and what you’ve done with them.

3. Work ethic

Did I mention work ethic? College is nothing if not hard work. When the parties and the football games are over, college students have mounds of work to do

This will probably be one of those things that your recommender will think of all on their own, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them.

4. Examples of overcoming adversity

Nothing hits the college admissions committee right in the heart like a great story of falling into adverse circumstances and overcoming the odds with courage and sheer willpower. It makes for great movies, and it makes for a great letter of recommendation.

Aside from work ethic (which I think I mentioned above), this might be the most powerful thing you can put in your letter. It shows that you can grit your teeth through hardship and come out on top. It shows you have a positive attitude and determination. But most of all, it puts them emotionally on your side. After all, no one is going to turn someone for acceptance whose dog died, house burned down, and dad lost his job all in the same week.

Make sure your recommender knows your story of overcoming adversity well enough to include it in your letter.

5. Intelligence

While colleges love kids who work hard and have a great story most of all, they also can’t resist really smart kids. It is a college, after all. If you are devilishly clever, make sure this makes it into your letter. Your GPA and test scores should confirm it, of course.

How are you approaching your letter of recommendation? Share in the comments below!

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