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Who’s Got Your Back: Choosing a Recommender

January 10, 2012 :: Admissionado Team

You’ve written a killer personal essay, you have a sparkling resume full of extra-curriculars and community service, and your transcripts and test scores are all in order.

But you’ve still got to get those letters of recommendation!

What’s the big deal?

Some schools ask for just one, some ask for two or three. Recommendation letters are almost always required, so it’s best to start thinking early on in the application process about whom to ask to write one for you.

Recommendation letters help an admissions committee get to know you on a more personal level than the basic application allows – they get an outside perspective on your character. Because of this, it’s important to have recommenders who know you well, and who will definitely say positive things about you.

How to pick the right recommender(s)?


Bad choices are people who would obviously be biased, who aren’t credible, who won’t write great stuff about you, or whose praise won’t seem genuine.

Examples of bad choices include: your parents, friends, a teacher whose class you frequently skip, a teacher you don’t know very well, a teacher you don’t like, your hamster or goldfish.


Good choices are people who know you well, who can speak with confidence about your strengths, skills, passions, and your integrity.

Examples of good choices: a teacher who you like and have a good relationship with, who can speak about your strengths and talents; employers who know how responsible you are; club advisors or coaches who can speak about your abilities. (A plus if any of these people attended the school you’re applying for!)

So sit down early on in the application process, make a list of people to ask, and narrow it down to your top three.