Male Student Meeting with Male Counselor
Students' Holistic Admissions applications should include character strength recommendations.

HOW TO REQUEST A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION

LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION ABOUT YOUR COMPELLING CHARACTER STRENGTHS

It’s senior year, and so far, you’re in the top 10% of your graduating class. You begin applying for colleges and realize, yet again, you’re asked to provide proof that your strengths go beyond academics. Specifically, you should include a letter of recommendation about your character. Your mind instantly begins to wonder. Who should I ask? What will they say? What have I done that make a good impression? After years of hard work, why is this important? My academic transcript shows I’m a great student, right?

That’s just it! The academic transcript does show you are a great student. The same goes for the other thousands of other students you’re competing for college, a job, or scholarship. Standing out can seem impossible. But, what isn’t the same is a letter of recommendation that showcases your personal story, character strengths, goals, and commitment. It paints a picture representative of what you can contribute with what you learn. College and employers always want to know who you are in addition to what you can do.

DEMONSTRATED CHARACTER STRENGTHS MATTER

Want to know the good news? The College Admissions Scandal and the COVID-19 pandemic prompted colleges to renew their commitment to equity and access. Today’s application process values character strengths more than ever. Consequently, starting Fall 2021, colleges will lean more heavily on non-academic strengths. The change evens the odds between affluent and non-affluent students. Why? Because not all students can afford expensive tutors. However, anyone can develop and exhibit good character.

70% of admissions officers deem character to be moderately to considerably important to an applicant’s candidacy.

CHARACTER AND THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PROCESS, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and Character Collaborative

HOW LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION ARE CHANGING

The Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project published a recent article emphasizing the significance of recommendation letters.  Writing Character-Conscious Letters of Recommendation: Tips for High School Counselors and Teachers discusses the importance of incorporating character. The guide provides a template for writing an effective letter.

Rather than a traditional letter of recommendation that contains conventional paragraphs of varying academic insights, the character strength letter emphasizes:

  • Distinctive qualities
  • Academic history and interests
  • Activities and interests
  • Personal history and family/community context
  • Summary
  • Highlights from teachers’ comments

This new format is more meaningful for colleges and employers. It’s persuasive and gives context to the students’ real-life contributions and motivations. Overall, it’s the best way to highlight a student’s unique qualities. Most of all, it affirms a student’s interest in a specific college major or career path.

VOLUNTEERCROWD AND PARCHMENT PARTNER TO PROCESS AND SEND LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

VolunteerCrowd and Parchment are partnering to helps students request and send Letters of Recommendation. Starting October 2021, students can ask a volunteer coordinator, club leader, or employer (“Recommender”) for a formal recommendation. Next, the student will submit a request to the Recommender through VolunteerCrowd’s online request form. Last, the student orders the Send Service on Parchment to get the Letter of Recommendation to their colleges.

Request a Letter of Recommendation in three easy steps:

3 Steps to request a letter of recommendation

VolunteerCrowd will reach out to the Recommender on your behalf after receiving the confirmed order from Parchment. Outreach includes sending background information each student provides on the Letter of Recommendation request form. Students include background information like their favorite extracurriculars, contributions to the community, or challenges they have overcome. It is helpful information for the Recommender to put character strengths into context. After VolunteerCrowd receives the Recommender’s response, we send the Letter of Recommendation to Parchment for final delivery. That’s it!

While you are waiting for the launch of our Letter of Recommendation service, please fill out our interest form, and we will be in contact with you as soon as possible.

WHO TO ASK FOR A RECOMMENDATION

You may be wondering who to ask for a Letter of Recommendation. And, honestly, it will vary by student. Think about who has witnessed your hard work and diligence as you supported your community or immersed yourself in job shadowing. For example, you may ask any non-profit coordinator, internship supervisor, or club leader who knows your work ethic. This may be your volunteer coordinator at National Charity LeagueScoutsKey ClubAssisteens, etc. Because the Letter of Recommendation focuses on character strengths, you can also ask a teacher, coach, or extra-curricular instructor in music or the arts.

Choose a Recommender who knows the real you. Think about who witnessed you in a role where you are solving problems outside of school. PRO TIP: Request Letters of Recommendation early in high school. That way, you can ask someone when you are actively involved in a project. And, you won’t be panicked your senior year!

CHARACTER-RELATED QUESTIONS RECOMMENDERS MAY ANSWER

VolunteerCrowd presents background information provided by the student. We ask Recommenders to give short answers to three or more of the following questions:

  • How has the student shown concern for others and/or contributed to the community?
  • Briefly describe the student’s impact and contributions.
  • How would peers describe this student?
  • How does the student get along with those who hold different beliefs from their own?
  • Describe a character strength you’ve observed with this student.
  • Tell a story about the student.
  • Describe other things someone should know about the student.

WORKING WITH YOUR RECOMMENDERS

After you decide who to ask for a letter of recommendation, try to make your request in person. This allows you and the Recommender to discuss anything of importance, such as:

  • What are your education/career goals?
  • What are your qualifications for the application which you are submitting?
  • Who will read the recommendation?

In addition, you can decide if your Recommender is the best fit to write your letter. First, get a feel for whether the individual is willing to write you a strong letter of support. Then, be sure to agree on a deadline. Give the individual at least 3-4 weeks’ notice. Recommenders may have other deadlines or time off scheduled. Showing respect for their time helps build goodwill.

Be sure to thank Recommenders for their support. If you don’t receive your letter within 2-3 weeks, it’s ok to remind them by email or phone politely. PRO TIP: Most Recommenders do not share what they write with students. So it’s ok to ask for, but not require, a copy of the letter.

WHEN TO USE A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION

Typically students request a Letter of Recommendation to reinforce their personal statements and applications for:

  • Undergraduate, Graduate, and Medical School
  • The Common App and Coalition for College App
  • School and local service awards
  • College scholarships or merit awards
  • Employment

VolunteerCrowd’s online form asks students the purpose of their request. But you can also mention it when you make your request in person. Consequently, the more you tell Recommenders supporting your college and career goals, the more invested they will be in the person.

FIND VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES THAT ENHANCE YOUR LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION

Volunteer projects are an awesome way to gain experience and further develop character skills. Not to mention, your service will look great on your letters of recommendation. With VolunteerCrowd’s volunteer and shadowing opportunities and programs, you are sure to stand out to colleges and employers.

Did you know you can Earn the President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA)? VolunteerCrowd is certifying organization. You may also stand out amongst the crowd by Earning an Online Digital Badge! Check back with us on the VolunteerCrowd blog or contact us if you have any questions.

VolunteerCrowd finds academic-related volunteer and shadowing opportunities to inspire students and helps them build a verified service transcript and earn digital badges to impress colleges and employers. Our programs are available direct to students and parents. We offer our program to K-12 schools, CTE programs, pre-med programs or college consultants. Educators can request more information. Visit VolunteerCrowd or download the app.

INSPIRING IMAGES BY SHUTTERSTOCK

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