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Tips for keeping your references informed

Hopefully, the person writing your college recommendations knows all about you and has kept track of everything in your life over the last 2-3 years. Sometimes though, that isn't the case. Here are some helpful tips to provide a great résumé (or cheat sheet) for your teachers, coaches, employers, guidance counselors ... references.

  1. Focus on the positives. No, it isn't bragging...you're providing a list of your accomplishments! Don't think of it as putting yourself on a pedestal, rather a summary of your first three years of high school.
  2. Be honest and straight-forward. If your reference is writing a letter to your top choice college, let her/him know that! Ultimately, it is not only a compliment to that person, but it will ensure a solid, well-crafted letter in your support.
  3. List college information. You'd be surprised how often at Augustana College we receive recommendations for the University of Illinois or Augustana University...providing these college names correctly will make you look organized and professional. Similarly, be certain to note when these recommendations are due to the college(s) you list.
  4. Provide the basics. Many references note your basic academic profile (GPA, test score, class rank) to give colleges a frame of reference.
  5. Highlight your academic accomplishments. This would include being student of the month, honor roll, NHS involvement, Top Ten, etc.
  6. Talk about leadership positions. References (and therefore colleges) get a better idea of what you're capable of when they know the extent to which you're involved in high school.
  7. Remember to list your co-curricular achievements as well. Whether it's going to IMEA for band or being voted "Most Improved" for basketball, your reference wants to emphasize your outside-the-classroom successes as well.
  8. Make sure your reference knows what is most important to you. Community service, sports, fine arts, youth group...whatever it may be. What is important to you is what you're passionate about. Especially at Augustana, we want to see you pursue those passions in and out of the classroom once you get here.
  9. Communicate your plans. Plans always change, but at the present moment, what are you hoping to study in college? What activities do you hope to continue or pursue after high school? It's a great way to tie in what you've done to what you will do.
  10. Consider your traits and characteristics. If you think you are an especially hard worker, detail-oriented, or a motivator for your peers, note that on your cheat sheet as well. Think about qualities that colleges may find impressive or valuable, and match those with your personality.
  11. Provide a self-addressed, stamped postcard. A pre-written a note that says something to the effect of "I have written and sent your recommendation to Augustana College. Just wanted you to know it was in the mail. From, Your Reference." Everyone loves getting mail, and then you don't have to continually ask your reference if your letter has been completed.
  12. Give time. Even after providing such a thorough cheat sheet or résumé, your reference might still have other questions. Be available! After all, they are bolstering your college applications.

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