July 27, 2012 by Admit It!
Admit It! Recommendation letters seem like the easy part of the application. All you have to do is ask someone to write one, then all the work is on them. Score! For the most part, that’s how it goes. The awesome thing about recommendations is that while they’re a component of many applications, they’re one where the bulk of the effort is made by someone else. That said, do pay them attention. Know what’s required and think about who you ask. William & Mary requires only one letter, from your guidance counselor. If nothing else, your counselor can put your transcript and accomplishments into context for your school and that’s why we require that letter. You are welcome to send additional optional letters but you should send no more than two. We recommend that if you do send additional letters, at least one be from a teacher of an academic subject. So keep all this in mind, and ask wisely.
Below are some examples of letters from inappropriate sources. They get a collective C’Mon! Man.
- A letter from your 8th-grade PE teacher
- A letter from your 3rd-grade teacher (this gets a Wah-Wah as well as a C’Mon! Man)
- A letter where the name of the writer doesn’t match the name on the fancy stationery at the top (meaning when say a senator has his/her chief of staff write the letter)
- A letter where the person gets your name wrong (we promise, the substance of the letter is far more impactful than the name of the person who signed it – don’t feel compelled to send letters from famous or influential people if those people don’t know you well)
- 17 letters of recommendation (this is the standing record for one single applicant). DO NOT attempt to challenge this. If there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, this is it.
Don’t be an example of what not to do. Don’t elicit an Admission C’Mon! Man. Ask people who know you well. Ask people you trust. Ask people who will be your advocate. That’s all the work you need to do but don’t shrug it off. It can definitely pay dividends.
Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ‘09
Senior Assistant Dean of Admission