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How NOT to get letters of Recommendation

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

Why do colleges want to see your letters of recommendation? It's another way to get to know you. It also helps them verify what you say in other parts of your application. For instance, if you are applying to the engineering department and your math teacher says you're not a very motivated student, you're going to have a problem.

A lot of college prep companies are offering summer courses taught by a Harvard professor (or something similar) and at the end, he or she will write you a letter of rec. Frankly, that's not a great option.

Stanford admissions doesn't care that a fancy professor wrote you a letter. They'd rather get a letter from a teacher who knows you really well. Someone who has known you for years. Someone who can attest to your stated interests and passions. Someone who can honestly say that you stand out from the other students at your high school.

Universities can sense inauthenticity. So ask someone who knows you and loves you for that letter.


As far as what universities are looking for, let's turn to documents released from Harvard's Admissions department during a recent lawsuit. This info has never been released before -- pretty exciting stuff!

TLDR: To get into Harvard, you need to be one of this teacher/counselor's favorite students of the year, and they need to have deep knowledge of you to back that up.

What's more...

As we also see in the Harvard Admissions leak, letters of recommendation aren't the most important thing. Your extracurricular activities blow them out of the water. So, to make sure you're going about those the right way, check out my next blog post here.


Someday, I'll write a post about the Harvard leak and how you can use that info to improve your application. Until then...

... COMMENT BELOW with 1) your top school 2) your planned major 3) your main extracurricular activity -- and I'll tell you how to tailor your app.


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