Wednesday’s Parent: YOU want ME to recommend you!?!!

There is no easy button to press for a great recommendation. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

There is no easy button to press for a great recommendation. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

People rely on the opinions of respected others. When presented with several choices that are equally unknown, it makes sense to choose the one someone more familiar with highly recommends.

That’s why celebrities are paid big bucks for their endorsements. You may vote for a particular candidate, buy a particular toothpaste, see a particular show because someone you trust provided a testimonial about it.

That’s why advisors urge job applicants to network. Opportunities may pop up unexpectedly and indirectly. Employers pay attention when a candidate is glowingly recommended by a connection.

That’s why colleges and scholarship sources seek recommendations about applicants. With so many qualified prospective students to choose from, references provide critical additional information about student academic performance, interests and personal qualities that may sway the admission and/or money offer.

Getting a great recommendation is not as easy as pressing a button. Students should have a reason why they are asking a particular individual for a recommendation and how they hope it will enhance their application. The details aren’t always obvious so let who are asked in on this.

Some recommenders don’t have to be asked because their job requires it. School counselors submit recommendations along with high school transcripts to those colleges students tell them they are applying. Whether students and counselors know each other very well or not, pay particular attention to #3 below. This is also good for those the student asks but suggest the student write a first draft.

Here are five ways parents may help their college-bound get great letters of recommendation:

  1. Start the search. As part of your parent/student team for college prep, let your student know colleges require recommendations from school/guidance counselors and teachers. Research the requirements for number of letters required from each school and if recommendations may also come from others such as employers and mentors.
  2. Brainstorm possible references. There are a lot of possible choices but not all will be able to provide the best recommendations. Select those who want to be a reference, think highly of the student and are able to clearly and concisely convey their reasons in writing before deadlines.
  3. Prepare a resume. Some people are extremely busy. Others are unsure of what to say. Make it an easy and simple favor by giving examples in a succinct student resume filled with bullet points of character traits and accomplishments they demonstrate. Personalize each according to what the reference personally has seen and hand it over at the time of the recommendation request.
  4. Time it right. Let’s say the student drew up a great resume and the recommendation writer is eager and knowledgeable. However, the student waited too late to ask. Maybe the writer is going on vacation or has already committed to do this for others. Be courteous of the writer’s time, give plenty of advance notice and provide a deadline before the date actually needed. That way the student may provide a gentle reminder before time runs out.
  5. Have a back up. There are times when Plan B’s are necessary. Unforeseen circumstances may waylay the best intentions. If this happens, don’t panic. After #2 brainstorming and #1 selections, go back to the list and ask someone else.

Thank the recommendation writers after they have written the reference even if you don’t get a chance to read it. School letters are usually not available for student review.

Read Suzanne’s postWill You Write a Recommendation Letter? 


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

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