Other Recommendation Letters
Though most applicants do not submit more letters than what is required, some colleges allow students to send additional recommendations beyond the required counselor or teacher letters. The application systems refer to these letter writers as Other Recommenders.
Other colleges receive so many applications that extra recommendations are not accepted unless something substantial is added to your application.
What is an Other Recommender? What are some examples?
Other Recommenders are writers of additional letters beyond the teacher and counselor recommendations. They know you very well and have worked closely with you for an extended period of time (a summer or longer) and can therefore attest to a significant experience of yours by providing detailed testimonials of your character, abilities or contributions.
The number and types of Other Recommenders that a college accepts will be clearly specified in its application instructions. Examples include but not limited to:
- Professor in a for-credit course taken at a college / summer course
- Internship Supervisor
- Research Director or Mentor
- Athletic Coach
- Extra-Curricular Club Sponsor
- Community Service Director
- Clergy or Spiritual Leader
- Visual or Performance Arts Director or Instructor
- College Access Counselor
- Peer (e.g., friend, co-worker, teammate, sibling)
- Parent or Guardian
Are letters from Other Recommenders accepted/required by most colleges?
Most colleges do not REQUIRE additional letters, but some will recommend, encourage, or allow OPTIONAL letters from one or more additional writers if they offer different perspectives from what you have already provided in your application.
How do I know if my colleges accept letters from Other Recommenders?
Check information resources in the following order:
- College admissions websites usually provide specific information about whether they will accept supplementary information from applicants. Search on the words “supplementary” or “additional” submissions or recommendations.
The college’s online application system should clearly state the number and types of recommenders accepted. If a college accepts Other Recommenders, you will see a prompt for this. The platforms will restrict the number and types of Other Recommenders you can assign according to the specific college policy.
- In the Common Application, see the “Recommenders and FERPA” section for each college you are applying to. (Note: You may have to complete the Common App “Education” section first before the Recommenders section is viewable.)
- In the Coalition Application, see the allowed “Uploads” in the “Colleges” section.
- If your college (or a specific academic department) allows attachment of a portfolio (for auditions, artwork, research papers, etc.), sometimes the college will instead require or allow you to invite an Other Recommender to upload a letter to be attached to the portfolio. This is usually done through a third party app called SlideRoom, and prompts for these invitations will be clearly visible once you specify that you are submitting a portfolio through the Common or Coalition App systems.
- If neither the college admissions website nor the application system provides you with answers, call the admissions office directly. If the college accepts Other Recommendations, be sure to obtain instructions for how to send the extra letter.
What are good reasons for sending a letter from an Other Recommender?
- Your Other Recommender knows you very well and will be able to add another perspective and contribute substantial and relevant information not covered by your teachers or counselor.
- Your Other Recommender is able to confirm claims you have made in your application.
- Your counselor or teachers don’t know you well and you feel that the Other Recommender will provide more context regarding your qualities, enthusiasm about a subject area, or abilities that your other letter writers can’t provide.
- Your college recommends, suggests or encourages it.
When should I NOT send a letter from an Other Recommender?
- It doesn’t add new a perspective and would repeat information already provided by your other letter writers.
- The letter writer does not know you well.
- Your college specifically states that it does not accept extra letters.
- You’re name-dropping. A letter from a mayor, senator, illustrious alum, generous donor, or Nobel Prize-winning neighbor generally will NOT help and could hurt your application unless that person knows you well and has worked with you in some capacity for an extended period of time.
None of my schools require letters from Other Recommenders, but I have one who would write a letter for me. Should I ask him/her to write one anyway?
If your college does not require a letter but recommends, encourages or accepts an optional letter, then by all means, ask your Other Recommender to write a letter if you think the letter would present or confirm a significant experience of yours.
What is a peer recommendation letter? Why do some colleges accept them? Whom should I ask?
A letter from a peer attests to the experience of working alongside you, being your friend, or living with you. It can provide context as to what you would bring to the college community and how you would participate in or beyond the classroom as a fellow student or roommate. Some students submit letters from a friend or classmate, though colleges will also accept letters from a sibling (or another relative), best friend, co-worker, or teammate.
Choose someone who knows you well and is able to provide details and examples of the reason others appreciate you. Of course, it helps if your peer recommender is a good writer. Ask your peer recommender well in advance, especially if he/she is also busy with college applications.
Why do some colleges accept recommendation letters from a parent or guardian? What should my parent write about?
Parents or guardians can provide a unique perspective about applicants that are not revealed anywhere else in the application. A parent is privy to your long-term growth, special challenges you have overcome, your specific contributions to and responsibilities in your household, and of course, your character.
What is the deadline for Other Recommender letter submission?
Most colleges require all components of your application by the specified deadline for the application type you have chosen. However, colleges understand that the actual upload of your letter is completed by your recommender. A couple of weeks is the usual grace period for tardy writers, but the ultimate responsibility for informing and providing your recommender with materials in a timely manner is yours.
How and when should I ask my Other Recommender for a letter?
Speak to your recommender personally and confirm that he/she is comfortable writing a letter for you. This should be done toward the end of or soon after your experience so that that they are able to recall and provide detailed anecdotes of your work and character. Writers should be given at least one month (or more if possible) before your earliest application deadline to compose a meaningful letter for you. Inform your recommender that you will not be able to view the letter.
Ask your Other Recommender if he/she is comfortable with uploading letters. If so, obtain the email address that he/she prefers to use for communications from your colleges. If any of your colleges are Common Application or Coalition Application members, this email will also be used to invite your recommender to upload a letter directly to those systems through a provided link.
If your Other Recommender would prefer to directly fax, email or mail the letter to your colleges, tell him/her that you will check with the colleges for further instructions.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a finalized college application list before you initiate this conversation with your Other Recommender. He/she will able to begin composing your letter while you complete your college research. Return with instructions for each college well before your earliest deadline. See next FAQ for more details.
What materials should I obtain from and give to my Other Recommender?
- Obtain the email address he/she prefers to use for communications from your colleges. If any of your colleges are Common Application or Coalition Application members, this email will also be used to invite your recommender to upload a letter directly to those systems through a provided link.
- Provide your recommender with the following:
- A written reflection to help clarify and provide detail for what you would like highlighted in the letter.
- Identifying information to be included at the top of your letter. Typically this includes:
- Full name you will be using in your applications
- Date of birth
- High school name, city and state
- Once you have finalized your college list, additionally provide a list with deadlines and specific instructions for how to submit the letter to each college. If your recommender is uncomfortable with direct letter uploads to the systems, include instructions for alternative submission methods (email or mail) that you have confirmed with your colleges.
NOTE: Some colleges that accept emailed letters of recommendation have security systems that DO NOT allow them to open attachments. In these cases, be sure you include in your instructions that the letter should be included in the BODY of the email.
- If the letters must be mailed, provide stamped, pre-addressed envelopes. The college admissions website or office will provide you with the exact address.
How does my Other Recommender submit the letter?
- If you are applying to several colleges through the Common Application, the system will send an email to your Other Recommender with an invitation to upload the letter directly to the platform. The letter only needs to be uploaded ONCE to the Common Application and your writer will not be able to see your college list. The system will attach the letter to your application for those colleges which you have chosen to assign the recommender. Your recommender will be able to upload the letter before or after your application is submitted.
- If you are applying to colleges through the Coalition Application, the submission process is similar to the Common App procedure.
- Likewise, if you are submitting a SlideRoom portfolio, such as auditions, artwork, or research papers, and the college requires or accepts an accompanying recommendation letter, the submission process is the same through the SlideRoom app. To learn more about SlideRoom portfolio submissions, see Common App Instructions for Fairview Students, Additional Materials.
- If your Other Recommender is uncomfortable with uploads through emailed invitations, provide him/her with instructions for alternative means of submission (fax, email or mail) obtained directly from the college admissions offices.
How can I tell if my recommender has submitted his/her letter? Will I be able to read the letter once my Other Recommender uploads it to my application system?
The Other Recommenders section of the Common and the Coalition Application systems will indicate that the letter was submitted by your recommender. You will NOT be able to view the letter.
Other application systems may or may not provide this information. Speak to your letter writer, and if the letter has been submitted, call the admissions office for verbal confirmation of receipt.
How do I know if my college has received the Other Recommender’s letter?
After you submit the main application, most colleges will provide a portal and login where you can track all REQUIRED components of your application.
If your Other Recommender letter was NOT a requirement, then it will likely NOT be reflected in the college portal’s “received” list.
- If the letter was submitted by or soon after the deadline through the Common, Coalition or college-specific application website, the submission status will be clearly noted on the site’s Recommenders page and you can be assured that the college has downloaded the letter and added it to your file.
- If the letter was submitted through the electronic application more than several days after the deadline OR it was submitted via email or snail mail, call the college admissions office and request verbal confirmation.
The college’s application website (e.g., Common App) does not provide a place to assign an Other Recommender, but I have a letter that would add substantially to my application. What should I do?
If you do not see a way to assign Other Recommender letters to a college through its application system, but you feel that an extra letter would attest to a significant part of your experience, call the college admissions office and explain your situation. If they allow you send the extra letter, obtain instructions for the best way to send it (email or snail mail?), and provide your recommender with the necessary information.
My deadline has passed but I have a new letter I can send. Should I submit it?
If you have a new letter that adds a different dimension to your application, call the college to ask if late submission would be possible. Some colleges are generous with regard to updates to applications after the deadline, particularly if the update adds new and significant information about the candidate.
NOTE: Some colleges provide a portal for direct uploads of updates to your application, such as information about accomplishments made after the deadline. You may be able to upload the letter through the portal, but most colleges prefer letters sent directly from the writer. Before you use the portal for this, call the admissions office to confirm.
I was deferred/waitlisted. Would it help if I sent an additional letter?
One more letter that conveys the same information you have already sent in your completed application will not usually make a difference.
However, a letter that testifies to new AND significant information about you might. For instance, a strong letter from a teacher in a different subject area may offer an alternative perspective of your accomplishments in a classroom setting. If you neglected to send a letter with your application from an employer, professor, coach or any other mentor who can attest to your character or contributions, then by all means, send the letter!