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LoR: Overview from a former Dean of Admissions
Transcript of LoR: Overview from a former Dean of Admissions
Insights on how to handle The LoR : from the College Admissions Perspective
What he/she is interested in
Her/his values [What's important to them?]
Her/his thought processes [or how they think]
"The" Letter of Recommendation (LoR) offers insight into your student's strenghts as an individual beyond facts and numbers. Universities are interested in:
Choose a positive personal quality you'd like to convey through your essay; it can be shown in a personal experience that you have had in the past.
Tell a story . . . but tell by SHOWING (you've heard this before: show, don't tell, through your writing).
Give careful thought to style, word choice, and syntax
Draft, workshop, revise
Words to the wise:
. . .
Generalizations about the world or social issues
Don't try to save the world.
Your religious beliefs or political views
DO NOT write about your mom, dad, or grandmother.
How much you love yourself
The importance of a college education
The college admissions, or essay-writing, process
"The Best Game/Trip of My Life"
How your hard work paid off
Your SAT scores, resume - anything already evident elsewhere in your application
Don't use 50 words when 5 will do.
More words to the wise:
DONT's . . .
Admissions regards your essays as a way to evaluate your preferences, values, mental processes, creativity, sense of humor, and depth of knowledge.
Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community
or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of
diversity to you.
Topic of your choice.
Comm App Prompts
Your writing reflects your power of persuasion, organizational abilities, style, and originality.
Write an essay in which you tell us about someone who has made an impact on your life and explain how and why this person is important to you.
Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could be personal, school related, local, political, or international in scope—and write an essay in which you explain the significance of that issue to yourself, your family, your community, or your generation.
There may be personal information you want considered as part of your admissions application. Write an essay describing that information. You might include exceptional hardships, challenges, or opportunities that have shaped or impacted your abilities or academic credentials, personal responsibilities, exceptional achievements or talents, educational goals, or ways in which you might contribute to an institution committed to creating a diverse learning environment.
Before You Start Writing
The person/people you are writing to matter! It is important to understand what they are looking for—it could be the difference between admission and rejection.
Spend about 85% on YOU and how your inspirational person influenced YOUR life. Remember that the point of these essays is to get to know you and get you into the college of your choice, not your mom, your grandmother or anyone else.
: spending too much time talking about someone else)
Refrain from using these phrases:
"There are so many people who have made
an impact on my life. It is hard to choose just one…”
“That’s why I am who I am today.”
Mr. Leon's Hint:
Choose something specific to YOU. Choose something that affects you or your community. Remember, they're still trying to get to know you so they really just want to see how passionate you are about something. Don’t just talk about the issue. Talk about how it is significant to you.
Who does if affect and how?
Why should your audience care about this?
Choosing a topic you know very little about or something you cannot adequately cover in 2 pages double spaced. This is not a research paper.
ie. It's hard to talk about a big idea like the environment or government in that amount of space. Focusing on
something specific and local is the way to go)
(Mr. Leon's Hint:
This is your chance to show admissions something about you that they couldn't find anywhere else. "Tell something we wouldn’t know." Talk about an obstacle you've faced in your life or an opportunity you have had.
Picking too many things to write about.
Remember that this is supposed to be a cohesive essay about essentially one topic.)
1. How long does it have to be? About 2 pages double spaced.
2. Should I have anyone else read it? YES!!! Please let me (Ms. Osborne) and your English teacher read it. We love helping you get into college!
3. Do I have to write all three? You may have to write all 3, you may not have to write any. It depends on the schools you want to apply to. Also, if it says it's “optional,” you still need to write it!
4. Can I hand-write it? No, you will need to type it in Microsoft Word and paste it into the appropriate
box on your Common Application.
The first thing you can do to get an idea of what your audience will be looking for is to look up some info about them. Colleges and scholarship providers have tons of information on their official websites. Be sure to look at some common words they use in their descriptions, and use similar key words in your essay when you’re making your points.
Different people write in different ways, but almost everyone can benefit from an outline before sitting down to write. Get an idea of where you want to go with your paper, so you will be able to keep a consistent theme throughout your essay.
Write due dates down on a calendar, a sticky note, the fridge, SOMEWHERE! Even if your essay sounds like it
was written by Shakespeare, if it’s past due,
no one is going to read it.
During your writing
It helps to make your essay more interesting and give you more voice if you start with a personal story
that is related to the essay topic. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should capture your reader’s interest.
Try to stick to an overall theme (or two) that will help everything in your paper flow together. Remember to end that first paragraph with a sentence that gives your reader hints about where you’re going to go with
the rest of the paper.
Show, Don’t Tell
It’s all well and good to say that you are hard-working or intelligent, but you can go one step further. You can
it by showing us that you’re hard-working in specific examples. Talk about what you learned during your hours of community service, or the time you spend at work. The reader can fill in the character traits on their own.
Conclude by answering the question,
You’ve told the reader about how taking care of your sweet-but-ailing aunt was the best learning experience you’ve ever had; now tell them why they should care (
Because you can take what you learned and apply it to your Major in Nursing or Psychology
Don’t forget to relate your ideas back to your audience!