Application Essays & Letters of Recommendation

One of the hardest things to do is to write about yourself in glowing terms (“I’m awesome and here’s why!”). The second hardest may be to ask someone else to write about you in glowing terms (“Can you tell them I’m awesome and why?”). But both are required when applying to college and graduate school in the form of application essays and letters of recommendation.

Here are some tips on how to make both tasks a little easier:

  • Make a list of all your accomplishments. Include everything, no matter how small you might think it is. What might be insignificant to you is actually one additional detail that will differentiate you from your cohorts. If you have work experience, dig up your previous performance reviews. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ve forgotten that you’ve accomplished.
  • Don’t be repetitive. Applicants often make the mistake of restating in their essays information that has already been captured in other parts of the application. Remember instead that every aspect of the application is an opportunity for you to tell another chapter of your story – and no admissions officer wants to read the same chapter twice.
  • For example, MBA programs require a resume and work history in addition to asking essay questions related to your professional experience. Your resume might include a bullet about how you increased sales by 20% as a result of a new process you implemented. Rather than repeat that in an essay detailing your professional successes, you could talk about how your ability to build relationships across a complex organization and influence senior management enabled you to institute a new process with little resistance.

  • Quality matters more than seniority when it comes to recommendations. Ask for a letter of recommendation from someone who knows you and your work, preferably a direct manager, even if you don’t believe that person is “senior” enough. A quality recommendation from a mid-level manager will go a lot farther than an obviously generic recommendation from a senior executive.
  • Prep your recommender. Meet with your recommender and gently remind them all that you’ve accomplished under their supervision. Talk to them about what they might write about and provide guidance as needed. If they resist or if you are uncomfortable doing this, perhaps they are not the right person to write your recommendation letter.

Applying to school can be a long and arduous process, but a completely worthwhile endeavor. Not only will you be accepted into a top-notch university, but you will learn a lot about yourself (and feel good about all that you’ve accomplished) in the process. Good luck!

This entry was posted in Preparing for college and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
The Student LoanDown

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Your questions and comments really matter to us! We're glad you want to join the conversation and connect with other readers. All we ask is that you keep some simple guidelines in mind:

  • Stay on-topic. Only comments that are related to the subject of the blog entry will be posted.
  • Be respectful. It's okay if you disagree with a post or comment, but please, no personal attacks or offensive language.
  • Maintain your privacy and confidentiality.Please do not provide any of your specific account details or other personal information! If you have immediate service needs, please contact your bank representative or Customer Service.
  • Wells Fargo team members: In the interest of full disclosure, if you are a current employee of or are associated with Wells Fargo, please make note of your affiliation.