How to Write a College Recommendation Letter for Homeschoolers

Based on a discussion in our Facebook group, we decided to share about how to write a college recommendation letter for homeschoolers.

How to Write a College Recommendation Letter for Homeschoolers

How to Write a College Recommendation Letter for Homeschoolers

We 7Sisters have written hundreds of college recommendation letters over the decades of advising and teaching homeschool high schoolers. It is not uncommon for homeschool seniors to ask their co-op teachers and homeschool extracurrricular leaders to write a college recommendation letter.

Of course, when you create one of these important letters, you want to produce something that will be honest and useful for your young college applicant. How do you write a recommendation that allows admissions officials see how much your student shines?

If you are new to the recommendation letter process, it is easy to feel intimidated. That’s okay. You can do this!

BTW- if you have a teen who needs recommendation letters, here’s how to request a college recommendation letter.

Here are some tips that we have found helps when writing a college recommendation letter

There are other names for the college recommendation letter. So you might be asked provide a:

  • counselor recommendation
  • teacher recommendation
  • counselor letter

Once you get started, this can be fun because you can imagine helping your student get to the next phase of their education! When your homeschool senior asks you if you will be willing to write the recommendation letter, try to find out these things:

Make sure you have correct submission information

Review key “sparkle” information about the college applicant

  • Jot down connections or classes the homeschooler experienced with you
  • Find out the major they are applying to
    • Brainstorm with them about ways their experiences or classes with you are interesting or useful preparation for the major (or college life in general)
  • In case you forget anything, ask them to give you a list of “sparkle” experiences during homeschool high school. This should include:
    • Leadership experiences
    • Service
    • Academic interests and successes
      • It is important to discuss the subject where the homeschooler chose academic rigor
        • What “levels” did they complete credits in their core subjects (and electives, if related to major or your student wants to highlight those electives)?
        • Did your student take extra core courses and elective courses show your student developing their interests (especially related to their chosen major)?
        • How did their extracurriculars and service enhance their preparation for their major and/or college life?
    • Personal qualities

Visit the college’s website

Check out the college’s mission, their description of the major of interest to your student and other “points of pride”. Can you incorporate some of these ideas into your letter somehow?

You can write a recommendation that truly makes a difference!

Writing the college recommendation letter

Now you are ready to start composing the letter. Here are some tips:

Heading

If you will be uploading a letter, do you have umbrella school letterhead that you can use? That looks nice. If you do not have the opportunity to use letterhead, start out your letter with:

  • Name
  • Umbrella school or co-op name or simply “homeschool” (or leave this out)
  • Your contact information (phone, email, address)

Greeting

This is optional for the recommendation letter. If you choose to use a greeting, try something like:

  • Greetings,
  • Dear University of … Admissions,

Introductory paragraph

In the first paragraph of the letter:

  • Start with the hearty recommendation. Such as:
    • I highly recommend… for admission to University of …
    • I recommend without reservations, my outstanding student… for admission to University of…
  • Next, note who you are and your connection to the student and experiences (classes taught, advising, mentoring, coach, etc) with the student
    • If you are the homeschooler’s parent, say that, of course. Then note your role as teacher, advisor and mentor.

Body of the recommendation letter

Include at least one story

Try to lead the body of the letter with an example of where you have seen your student shine. Make it a one-paragraph story. If you can include more than one story and stay within the word limit, do so.

List the academics and accomplishments that your student has discussed with you

You will need a paragraph or more for this. Remember to check for word limits.

Give a brief personal evaluation

What do you personally believe about this student’s strengths and character? How do you feel they will add value to the college’s academics or campus life? Are there some qualities that help “differentiate” your student from others you know; or qualities that make them stand out?

Be honest

Sometimes, there are some unique considerations, please gracefully mention them. For instance:

If the teen has been through a highly trying time that has prevented them from experiencing the level of success your could have otherwise expected, note this in the letter (along with ways the student has developed coping skills). Such as:

  • Serious illness
  • Tragedy in the family
  • Extreme family situation (periods of poverty, homelessness)
  • Military family with frequent location changes

Other times, teens start out high school in a personally rough place, so struggle in ninth or tenth grade. Then they get on their feet and find their way in academics and extracurriculars, as well as character growth. Explain the positive change in their transcript over the years.

Sometimes there are unique (but not negative) situations. Note those.

For instance:

  • Road schooling for a year
  • Overseas travels or missions trips
  • Being a twin
  • Fascinating apprenticeships

Conclusion

Of course, you must include a concluding paragraph. Keep it brief. Reiterate the benefit the student will bring to the college or simply share your pride at watching them become such a cool person.

Compose your recommendation letter, then let it rest for a day

The next day, read over the letter again. Ask yourself:

  • Did I say all I needed to say?
  • If a word-count limitation is given, is the word count correct?
  • How is the grammar? (Try running it through a tool like Grammarly.)
  • Would you be inspired to offer this student admissions to your college if you were an admissions official?

What if you do not feel comfortable writing the recommendation for a certain student?

If it is your first college recommendation letter and you feel intimidated, pray about it and give it a try if you at all possible. These letters can mean a lot to a student. Then:

  • Ask a friend to help
  • Give yourself time and several rewrites
  • Just be honest and don’t worry about being amazing!

On the other hand, if a student asks you to write a recommendation but your do not feel comfortable because the student has been an under-performer or had a poor attitude:

  • It is okay to say “no” and suggest they find someone else
  • OR If you feel uncomfortable but would like to help them try college, describe their areas for growth and the potential you see in them.

You can do this!

Once you compose that first college recommendation letter, you will find it easier the next time a homeschool high schooler asks you for one.

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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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