The Ultimate Guide to Letters of Recommendation: Who to Ask and How to Do It

Letters of recommendation. The elusive cousin of resumes and cover letters. While they’re not always invited to the party, they are generally welcomed as a nice surprise when they show up. They convey—possibly more than anything else—your work ethic. It’s important that your recommendation letters evolve as you take each new step in your academic and professional career.

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Who to Ask

HIGH SCHOOL

Letters of recommendation are required for many college and scholarship applications and many volunteering opportunities. Think about the position or institution you are applying for and select letter writers that know your character and skillset the best. Some of those people may include:

  • Teacher: A teacher you’ve had at least a class or two with will be able to speak to your general work ethic, personality, determination, and willingness to go the extra mile. They are a good person to ask to write about your history of academic achievements.
  • Volunteering coordinator: Do you have previous experience volunteering? If you worked closely with a supervisor or volunteer coordinator during your experience, they would be a perfect candidate to write about your willingness to help and your dedication to a specific community.
  • Employer: Juggling a part-time job with school, extra-curricular activities, and volunteering says a lot about your ability to balance multiple things at once. Your employer will be able to talk about your punctuality, your enthusiasm to succeed, and how well you work with a team.

COLLEGE

Recommendation letters are going to be important for three main things: internships, graduate programs, and your first out-of-school job. Even if a letter of recommendation isn’t specifically asked for, it is not a bad idea to have a few written up on your behalf to bring them with you to interviews. Not only does it show that you are a person worth vouching for, but it shows that you are willing to go the extra mile.

  • Academic advisor: Most colleges require each student to have an academic advisor. This is someone that should know your academic history as well as your passion for your field. Encourage them to write about your thirst for knowledge and excitement learn new things.
  • Internship supervisor: A supervisor from a previous internship is the best person to recommend you for your next internship. If you implemented any changes or created a project during your internship, ask your supervisor to mention that process and how it helped their business.
  • Mentor: If you’ve found a mentor in college, you should absolutely ask them to write you a letter of recommendation. Depending on your relationship, this is someone who will know what kind of work and activities you’ve been involved in, what you want to do in the future, and who can speak to what you’re capable of—chances are it’s a lot!

How to Ask

Writing a good letter of recommendation is no easy task. Once you decide who you want to ask, you need to take into account their schedule, how well they know you, and what they are best suited to write about. Follow these tips for a smooth process.

  • Be courteous: Writing one of these letters takes time. Make sure you ask if they’d be willing to write the letter at least a month before you need it. This gives plenty of time for them to come back to you with questions and work through multiple drafts. It also gives you time to find someone new if for some reason they say no or have to back out. It is your responsibility to let them know upfront of any deadlines or special requirements for the letter.
  • Be helpful: In order to write a great letter, your references will need details. Make sure to supply letter writers with a copy of your resume and cover letter, as well as the position description if the letter is going to be for something specific. You should let your writer know if you want them to mention specific pieces of information. It’s important to let them feel free to write their true opinions, but it’s never a bad thing to tell them why you are asking them to write the letter and what you think they can best speak about. Think of this as an opportunity to have someone else talk about things you couldn’t fit in your resume.
  • Be thankful: The process isn’t over when they hand you their letter. Make sure to look it over (unless it’s required to be sealed) and verify that it’s relevant and what you need for your application. After you’ve sent it off, be sure to thank your writer. An old fashioned thank you note is the best way to go, and mention how much it meant to you that they were willing to vouch for you and help you achieve your goals.

Whether you’re applying for a scholarship, a new job, a graduate program, or you just want something to supplement your resume, a strong letter of recommendation can set you apart from other applicants. Not only does it show your ability to build and maintain working relationships, a well-written letter gives potential employers, colleges, and scholarship providers an idea of your past achievements and work-ethic. To ensure a useful and relevant letter, ask someone who has a history of working with or advising you to write a recommendation. Provide the writer with examples of your work, an updated resume, and a brief description of the position or organization you are applying to.


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Holly King is a recently graduated writer living in Salt Lake City, UT. When not scouring the internet for updates in business, lifestyles, and technology, she is tending to her garden and trying to perfect the world’s best egg sandwich.
 
 

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Original Post Date: October 17th, 2014

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NCTQ Provides Valuable Info for Education Majors

Categories: Majors & Minors

education1Cappex is proud to be Your College Decision Headquarters™. Choosing your major is not only a big part of finding your dream college, but it’s also a choice that can define your career and even the rest of your life.

If you’re interested in becoming an education major, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has some valuable information for you! Check out the NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review. The Review has the comprehensive information you need to pick the education program that will provide you with the training to make you a confident and effective teacher from day one. NCTQ looks at what matters most in teacher preparation: whether candidates master the subjects they will teach, whether candidates get trained in using specific pedagogical skills, such as teaching kids how to read, and whether they get a high-quality student teaching experience with an effective mentor teacher.

Published in partnership with U.S. News & World Report, the Teacher Prep Review looks at elementary, secondary, and special education programs at 1,127 colleges and universities around the country. Look through the country’s Top Ranked elementary and secondary programs. Find the right program in your state or even closer to home. The Review is your guide to the best of teacher prep.

No matter what major you decide to pursue, Cappex has the tools to help you find your perfect fit college. Check out our Colleges and Majors section to explore your major options and find out what colleges offer the majors you’re interested in.

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Original Post Date: October 15th, 2014

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4 Quick Test Prep Tips for Taking the SAT and ACT

test_taking_tips1

While there are a fair number of colleges that don’t require test scores from their applicants, there are still a large number of colleges that do. If the schools you’re planning on applying to are not on that list of test-optional schools, then your ACT and/or SAT test scores are going to play a factor in whether or not you’ll be admitted.

Bottom line: regardless of what area of study you’re pursuing and what test you’re taking, your test scores have a huge impact on your educational future. Here are a few quick test prep tips to help you get the best scores you can.

1. Find your score.

Want to get an idea of just how much preparation you need to do? Kaplan Test Prep offers a super helpful tool that predicts what your SAT or ACT score will be for free in as little as 30 minutes! Predict your SAT score by clicking here, and predict your ACT score by clicking here.

2. Get help!

You don’t have to prepare for this big test all by yourself! There are many test prep resources available to help you get ready and feel confident. BenchPrep is a highly rated online resource that can help you prepare for your big test through the use of study guides, flashcards, quizzes, reports, tests, and more. BenchPrep users have increased their scores by an average of 15%! Cappex has partnered with Groupon to bring you a great deal: $19 for 12 months of access to one test prep course from BenchPrep (a $200 value). BenchPrep’s app is free for all registered BenchPrep users, so you’ll have access to your test prep resources wherever you go. Click here to get this offer today!

3. Be ready.

The night before the test, it’s important to get a full night’s sleep so you can stay alert and focused. Be sure to eat a substantial, healthful meal before the test so your brain and body have the energy necessary to tackle it. You wouldn’t want your grumbling stomach to distract yourself and your fellow test-takers.

4. Retake it.

For both SAT and ACT, you often have the option of taking the test more than once. If you take a test more than once, you can choose which set of scores are sent to your school. Each time you retake a test, you give yourself a higher chance of getting your best score possible. For example, 57% of students from the 2013 graduating class who took the ACT more than once increased their composite score on the retest. Keep this in mind when going into the test for the first time; knowing you’ll have more than just one chance to knock it out of the park will help ease the pressure and stress a bit, allowing you to do better this time around.

Tell us your best test prep tip in the comments below, and best of luck on your big test!

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Original Post Date: October 13th, 2014

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