It is already the end of September, which means that college application season is in full swing. We are just under two months out from the November 15th Early Action deadline, and that may seem like a long time now– but it will sneak up on you before you know it! It is good advice to start early on your college applications so that you can be sure to have all the required documents together and submitted well ahead of the deadline. One document that you’ll definitely want to begin preparing early is the Letter of Recommendation. Here you will find some tips and guidance on this important piece of the application.
Why do I have to submit a letter of recommendation?
At CU Boulder, we know there is so much more to you than just your GPA, your test scores or your résumé. You are a whole person! You have ambitions, drive, accomplishments and challenges. That is why we’re proud that to employ a holistic review process when reading your application. This means the admissions committee carefully reads and considers every part of your application in order to make an admissions decision. The letter of recommendation is just one of the many ways we learn about you as an individual, and how you will contribute to our campus community as a Buff. Through this letter, we are able to glean more about your strengths, goals and character.
So…who should write it?
For freshman applicants, we require one letter to be submitted with your application, and it should be academic in nature. Typically, this means it should come from a teacher or counselor at your high school. However, the most important thing is that the person you ask knows you well enough to highlight other dimensions of who you are, especially with respect to academics. Consider the teachers or counselors with whom you have built strong relationships, and/or those that have seen you grow personally and academically over time. If there is no one that immediately comes to mind, think about the classes you did exceptionally well in, or improved in significantly throughout the year. Those teachers are likely to have a lot to say about you!
Can I submit more than one?
You can submit additional letters of recommendation along with your application, if you would like. You may have another teacher, mentor, coach, supervisor or supporter out there who knows you in a different way, who can highlight other aspects of who you are. However, you do not need to send 10 or 20! More is not necessarily better, which is a common misconception. We strongly suggest no more than three, although only one is required.
What should it say?
This is up to the recommender writing your letter. However, what we hope to learn about you are additional qualities, characteristics and/or achievements that may not be clearly distinguished in other parts of your application. Maybe Calculus is not your strong suit, but you went to tutoring every day after school or attended extra workshops to raise your grade from a C to a B. Maybe you were the only student in your grade to take AP Spanish. Or maybe you confided in a counselor about how to keep up with your schoolwork while dealing with a significant family situation. Hearing directly from someone who can speak very specifically to your character, determination and ability to overcome challenges helps the admissions committee understand the full picture of who you are in order to make an informed admissions decision.
When should I ask my recommender to write a letter for me?
Now! As you might imagine, college application season is a very busy time for your teachers and counselors as well. They have many letters of recommendation to write and many different deadlines to meet, just like you – so do them a favor by asking well in advance (2-4 weeks) of the application deadline. This will help ensure that a quality letter is written on your behalf, and that it reaches our office by the deadline. You do not want to be scrambling to get everything submitted in time or worrying about whether your recommender sent their letter to us! And of course, don’t forget to send your recommender a nice thank you note!
Senior Admission Counselor
Office of Admissions