Recommendations: Important Considerations for Stellar School Applications

Recommendations: Important Considerations for Stellar School Applications

You and your student might be chugging away at writing essays and submitting school applications through their respective portals, but it’s important to plan ahead for the part of the admissions process that you don’t create yourself: letters of recommendation. Recommendation letters are an important addition to your child’s admissions file; they’re one of the best opportunities for an admissions committee to learn more about your child as a student and understand who they are as a person beyond the stats on paper. 

November is the ideal time to begin requesting letters of recommendation; teachers prefer to wait until at least November so they can get to know your child throughout the fall and write thoughtfully about their strengths, character, and academic ability. 

Requesting letters of recommendation can be complicated, because some schools use a common recommendation form that can be submitted to multiple schools while others require a school-specific recommendation form. It’s vital to track each recommendation requirement in some sort of organizational tool to ensure that each prospective school receives the correct number of recommendations by the proper due date. Check out this example tool to kick-start your tracking. (Use File -> Make a Copy to create your own!)

You might want to help your requested recommenders stay organized on dates and submission instructions too – consider sharing a tool like this one with your recommenders to hold them accountable for writing the letter in advance of deadlines. (Use File -> Make a Copy to create your own!)

Middle and Upper School Applications

The majority of schools require recommendations from both a math and an English teacher, and some give the option to submit one or more additional recommendations. If you’ll be submitting additional recommendations, be thoughtful about who to ask: they can come from extracurricular advisors, sports coaches, job supervisors, family friends, etc., but not just anyone is qualified to write. Ensure that your child’s recommenders truly know your child well, and can speak directly to their personal qualities based on a pretty significant amount of interaction with them. 

It’s also important to consider how the recommender’s letter will fit into your child’s broader school applications. You might want to select a recommender that will emphasize a quality that is not touched on in essays or other recommendations, to round out a comprehensive profile of your child’s traits. On the other hand, an additional recommender might underscore a common theme of your application, providing additional examples of how your child’s core strengths manifested outside the classroom. 

Nursery and Elementary School Applications

As with recommendation letters for any grade level, be thoughtful about who you choose to write a recommendation on your child’s behalf. Only ask someone to submit a letter if they know your child personally and can write several paragraphs about their personality and unique traits. Check whether each prospective school allows additional letters of recommendation – it’s best not to submit additional letters if specifically prohibited by your target school. 

Remember that your child’s fit with the school community and academic philosophy is the most important factor that the admissions committee will evaluate. Personal connections to the school are not particularly impressive, nor are “celebrity recommenders,” especially if they can’t speak personally about your child. Of course, if you know someone who is active in the school community (a board member, teacher, engaged parent, alumni) who does know your family and child well, they could be a great person to ask for a recommendation – but never sacrifice the quality of the letter just to work in a well-known recommender or school affiliate. 

Don’t Forget: The Content of the Letter is Most Important

The most important quality of excellent letters of recommendation is unique, personal content about your child. Your recommenders should be able to share anecdotes, thoughtful reflections on your child’s progress or ability to overcome challenges, or heartfelt opinions that your child is truly distinctive among children they’ve met. A compelling letter that truly gets to the heart of your child’s one-of-a-kind personality will always be an asset in the admissions process, far more than a short, impersonal letter from a celebrity. 

Still wondering who you should ask to write a letter of recommendation for your child’s school applications? Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Admit NY team – we’re more than willing to discuss your options and recommend the best approach.


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