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November 01, 2021

The Road to Completing College Applications: Writing and Letters of Recommendation

By Maggie Chen

The next sections of an application are for writing and letters of recommendation. In contrast to the sections before that gave a general overview of the applicant, these sections focus on who you are as a person through your own perspective and the perspective of your recommenders. In this section, you should show growth, depth, and personality. You are not the only person applying to a college and competition is fierce, so you have to attract the attention to yourself. Of course, you want to make yourself stand out without being narcissistic. 

Writing: For students that apply via Common App, you may be asked to write a short college essay on a topic detailed by the application. You may also be asked to write a couple supplemental essays if you apply for the Honors College program at that college, if they have one and you meet the requirements.  

For the college essay, you should start the writing process early because rough drafts will need numerous revisions. You should ask teachers, peers, and family members to peer edit your drafts. I don’t recommend using online college essay feedback services. Remember, your college essay should not only answer the topic but also show your growth as a person. The admissions counselor doesn’t know who you are.   

Alongside the college essay, some colleges may have several small personal question sections which are also known as supplemental essays that are different from the supplemental essays for the Honors College program. These questions are specific and often tailored to the college since the questions are related to you, your major, your decisions, and the college. For a breakdown of some college supplemental essay prompts click here or how to answer supplemental essay prompts, click here.  

Letters of Recommendation: You should ask teachers you have strong relationships with to write these letters because the purpose of these letters is to show admissions who you are. The teachers with whom you have strong relationships know your personality and academics. Some schools will want you to request these through Naviance after your teacher has stated that they would be willing to write the letter.   

You should begin this process by asking your teacher in person, preparing a resume that highlights your activities, academics, goals, awards, skills, work experience, community service, etc., and making the formal request on Naviance. Inform your teachers of your application deadline, where you are applying, and your major. Be polite and remember to keep in touch with your teacher throughout the process.  

Your resume can be made on Naviance if your school uses it or you can make your own using templates found online. The quality of the information matters more than the quantity, and your formatting should be neat and concise.  

FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is legislation designed to protect the privacy of educational records. The FERPA established that students had the right to view their educational records. It also controls the release of educational record information. For students applying to college, your educational records will only be shared with colleges where you have given explicit confirmation. By signing the waiver or waiving your right, you are allowing admissions to view your educational records. For more information about the FERPA and what it means, click here.  

Meet Maggie

Hi! I am Maggie Chen and I’m American-Chinese. I speak Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. My hobbies include collecting 3D Crystal Puzzles, purses or handbags, pillows, and music albums. I also enjoy listening to music, reading Webtoons, trying DIYs or crafts, watching TV shows, traveling, and learning foreign languages. I am best described as an experimentalist and social butterfly.