What You Need to Know About College References

What You Need to Know About College References


This article is just one in an ongoing series of articles to help high school seniors prepare themselves for college.

Your admission to college is based on several factors including your grades, your test scores and your extracurricular activities. Another factor, sometimes not recognized for its importance, are the personal references you include with your application. Those references can make a difference between gaining acceptance to a college or not.

Reference Essentials

Not just anyone should provide a reference for you, the budding college student. The person you choose should know you well enough to make a case on your behalf.

That individual should be someone that can provide relevant information about you, details that the admissions team would otherwise not know. In other words, you want a recommendation that brings in details about you that go beyond the basics to offer a thorough picture of who you are and what you would bring to the school.

Drilling Down

Personal details about you should be very specific and include information that supports the reference provider’s contention. For example, if your high school journalism instructor believes that you are a good writer, then supporting evidence such as your editorial leadership should be offered.

Noting a particular article or project you contributed to can help your case. Going beyond what you have accomplished to cover the why this important will carry further credence. That accomplishment might be, “Susan uncovered waste in the athletic department that was brought to attention of school administrators. Reform measures were instituted, saving the school more than $10,000 last year in salary costs alone.”

Your references should also make a correlation between your accomplishments and the college. Specifically, he or she will want to make a connection between your potential for success and what you will bring to that program.

Reference Choices

Who know you nearly as well as your family? That would be your closest friends. But, your friends are simply not the right choice as a college reference.

Admissions committees want objective sources to provide a reference, individuals that carry significant weight. Your teachers and guidance counselor are good places to start. Your school may also welcome a recommendation from your youth pastor or other church leader. And, if you are currently working, your employer might also be a good choice. Follow your school’s guideline for choosing references.


Well before your references are due, contact the people that you would like to provide a reference for you. You want to give these individuals ample time to respond, understanding that their time is valuable and the last thing you want is a rushed response or rejection because of insufficient time.

Provide your references with all the information they need to write a reference. Deadlines, mailing addresses and other details that you may assume a reference may know may be something that they need.


The Ohio State University: Who Should Be My Reference? What Should They Say About Me?

Maryland Institute College of Art: Freshman — Regular Decision


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Categories: Academics