The Ivy Coach Daily

June 4, 2024

Letter of Recommendation Tips for Elite College Applicants

Letter of Recommendation Tips for Elite College Applicants

Previously Published on July 21, 2011:

We’re often asked if elite college admissions officers are impressed when they receive letters of recommendation from important people. The answer is yes! Admissions officers absolutely want to hear from the important people in your child’s life — from their junior year teachers in core subjects and school counselor. Oh, were you thinking of other people — maybe celebrities, influential politicians, or major donors to a university? If so, we suggest you squash that name-dropping instinct to try to impress the people weighing your child’s case for admission right here and now!

Elite College Letter of Recommendation Tips

Admissions Officers Want to Hear from Recommenders Who Know Your Children

Admissions officers at our nation’s top universities wish to hear from two teachers and the school counselor because they want to get to know the applicant in the context of the classroom, the school, and the larger community.

They want to understand if students speak up in classroom discussions, what they have to say, and how they work on class projects with their classmates. They want to understand if students devote their hours outside the classroom to shaping our world in specific ways.

Admissions Officers Don’t Want to Hear from Recommenders Who Don’t Know Your Children

Letters from Fortune 500 CEOs or senators do not offer elite college admissions officers a window into how students think and approach the world. After all, admissions officers weren’t born yesterday. They know when a parent is trying to impress them with a fancy schmancy letter of recommendation from a known individual. Admissions officers know these known individuals rarely actually know the student firsthand. As such, what could they possibly say about the student? What insights could they offer?

Applicants Should Not Try to Impress with the Choice of Recommenders

With exception to our nation’s service academies, like West Point, which require nominations (either Congressional or Service-Connected), submitting letters of recommendation to elite universities from bigwigs will typically do more harm than good. Are there a few exceptions? Yes. But for all those exceptions, the bigwigs intimately knew the applicant and expressed as much in their letters.

Long story short, likability is critical in the elite college admissions process. More often than not, we at Ivy Coach find applicants undermine their likability when letters of recommendation come in from seemingly impressive sources.

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