If your teacher has agreed to write you a letter of recommendation for college, congratulations! You’ve found someone who wants to vouch for your excellence as a student and person. Now, how can you advocate for yourself so that your teacher writes the strongest recommendation letter possible? While drafting your recommendation letter, your teacher won’t be able to recall every interesting detail about you. They’re only human after all. In our guide to college recommendation letters, we wrote that you should bring supporting documents for your recommender to reference. One of these supporting documents is your college brag sheet. In this post, we outline what to include in a brag sheet so your teacher writes the strongest letter possible.
Brag Sheet for College Recommendation Letters
Your brag sheet will elevate your recommendation letter because it shows your teacher who you are beyond your class performance. Letters of recommendation are growing more important now that admissions officers see more and more polished college applications, especially with all the external admissions support that is available today. A positive letter is not enough anymore if you’re aiming for the top schools. Instead, you need a glowing letter of recommendation to stand out.
College Brag Sheet Template
Some teachers give students their own college brag sheet or extensive questionnaire to fill out, while some schools give students a standard brag sheet to give to their recommenders. In both cases, you should use what is provided. However, not all of these documents are as helpful as they can be, so make sure you provide the information you want the teacher to include. Don’t just blindly answer the questions asked. Occasionally, a brag sheet might not be provided at all, which means that you need to make your own. In each situation, your college brag sheet should help make your letter uniquely personal, interesting to read, and show that your teacher knows you well and cares about you.
In case you aren’t provided a college brag sheet template, we encourage you to download ours (click here). It’s a Word Document, so you can type your answers directly into the file and then email or print it out for your teacher.
How to Write a Brag Sheet for College
Before you begin writing your brag sheet, first figure out your College Candidacy Story. This story is what shapes the themes of your college application and shows up in every element of the application, from the essays to the activity list. Your College Candidacy Story briefly summarizes who you are as a person and student through your values, achievements, and character. You want your story to be memorable and compelling enough so that if your name was taken off your application, an admissions officer would instantly recognize that this application was yours.
If you aren’t sure how to formulate this story, take a look at these guidelines on how to get started. This story will help you guide your teacher in writing a letter of recommendation that reinforces your profile. A gap or the lack of a clear narrative caused by the inconsistency between your letter of recommendation and your application will hurt your competitiveness, so make sure you have your story hammered out before writing your college brag sheet!
At the top of your brag sheet you should include the following information:
- Contact information (email)
- GPA and class rank (if available)
- Test scores (PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP, IB, etc.)
- Classes and semesters that your recommender taught you
We also recommend including a list of the universities to which you plan to apply. This list can be a preliminary selection of schools, especially since you are likely still researching potential schools. However, including these colleges will give your recommender a sense of the type of campus environment you may join. You should also write down the intended major(s) and programs you are interested in. Explain why you are interested in studying in these fields and talk about your career plans and future goals. This will help your teacher understand the overarching theme of your College Candidacy Story.
If you are unsure about your major or career plans, that’s okay too. What would be helpful is to include what options you are currently considering and likely to explore over the first few years of college. They should also align with the subjects and activities you’ve been most involved in throughout your high school career.
Your Relationship With Your Teacher
In addition to information about yourself, your teacher will also want to know why you are asking them to write your letter of recommendation. This may be because they taught you in the subject you hope to pursue in college, or because you enjoyed their class and they know you well. Perhaps your teacher is also the advisor to a school club or activity in which you play a leadership role. Regardless, a little flattery goes a long way but remember not to go overboard. Make sure you write about a project or assignment that was particularly memorable or an accomplishment you are proud of.
If you have anecdotes with your teacher that complement your story, include them. Some examples might include a particular moment in class where you showed exemplary leadership or a favorite topic or book that you’ve discussed with your teacher.
Adjectives For A College Brag Sheet
A college brag sheet often includes questions asking for 3-5 adjectives that describe you as a person and as a student. While this question sounds tedious, these adjectives shape your teacher’s impression of you their letter. They often appear in the first paragraph of your recommendation letter and once again in the conclusion. Make sure your adjectives reflect your story and profile, as well as the anecdotes you include in the brag sheet. You’ll find that once you have your College Candidacy Story in mind, coming up with these key adjectives will be much easier.
While your teacher will be familiar with your in-class performance and personality, another way for them to demonstrate that they know you well is to mention the activities that you do outside of the classroom. These activities can include clubs, community service, internships, online courses, research opportunities, and any notable leadership positions you’ve held. If you’ve participated in numerous activities throughout high school, your teachers certainly won’t have space in a single letter to highlight every one.
Once again, use your College Candidacy Story as a framework to guide which extracurricular activities you want to highlight for your recommender. You can also strategize which teacher highlights what activities because you don’t want two teachers to talk about the same ones. That would be a waste of an opportunity to highlight several more of your accomplishments. Be sure to consider that teachers of certain subjects would be more likely to know of your involvement in activities related to that subject. Your English teacher wouldn’t necessarily know of your participation in the school’s Math Olympiad team. They’re probably more aware of the articles you’ve written for the school newspaper.
Include Your Spike
An exemplary extracurricular to include would be your Spike. Many of the activities high school students will include in their college brag sheet are too often quite similar to each other. Admissions officers see these activities mentioned so often that they have almost become cliches at this point. In contrast, building a Spike is a unique opportunity. This endeavor is challenging for a high school student to accomplish. Creating a passion project with real-world impact – what we define as a Spike – requires an immense level of resilience, creativity, and execution. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to highlight your Spike in at least one of your letters of recommendation! A Spike is exactly the type of project that your teachers would want to emphasize in their recommendation.
Once you’ve figured out what activities to highlight in your brag sheet, list them out clearly. Write your chosen activities in a table. Note each year of high school you’ve participated in this activity as well as your position (e.g. founder, vice president, student bursar, editor, etc.) Give examples of the meaningful experiences and skills you gained within each position and activity as well as the social impact of your involvement on your peers, school, or local community. How did you expand the learning or consciousness of classmates? What problems did you encounter and creatively address within your local community? Some of this information you can also draw from your resume if you’ve written one! But don’t forget the most important guideline: Align your activity descriptions with…what? What else? Your College Candidacy Story!
Note that the same goes for any honors and awards you’ve received during high school. Listing all of your awards would not be a good use of your time. Picking several to highlight for your teacher, and make sure they align with the rest of your story and personality.
What else to include?
Now, beyond listing your accomplishments, you should also further elaborate on your high school experience. The Spike Lab College Brag Sheet Template includes questions to guide your personal reflection. These questions ask you to reflect on your personality and the legacy you will leave in your high school and the local community. These questions are also a great way to prepare for the personal essay questions you will encounter when you apply for college this fall. Of course, you should also elaborate on your Spike here if you have one!
Aside from elucidating your accomplishments, recommendation letters are also one of the best ways to provide context for any extenuating circumstances. These external factors may be the death of a family member, a severe medical illness, or a family emergency. You should definitely include this information in your brag sheet, particularly if these circumstances affected your class performance. While adverse circumstances aren’t exactly topics to “brag about,” this information helps your teacher know how to advocate for you.
While you may be hesitant to bring this issue up, remember that your teacher is also a person. They know that sometimes life happens. If they have already agreed to write your letter of recommendation, they are already in your corner and they want to give you the best shot possible in applying to college. To do so, your teacher will explain any drop in your grades or participation and may also address how you have worked to overcome challenges.
If you’re stuck or confused on what to include in your college brag sheet, feel free to consult a parent, teacher, or mentor. Make sure you also have a second person review it for clarity and to ensure that your College Candidacy Story is actually reflected in your college brag sheet.
Last but not least, if you’re uncomfortable bragging about yourself, don’t think about it as bragging. You’ve accomplished and learned so much during your high school years that you should take pride in. Let your teacher celebrate your growth by helping them write the best college recommendation letter for you!
Click here for The Spike Lab’s College Brag Sheet Template.
Need an extra hand with writing your college brag sheet? Or do you want to launch a Spike to include in your brag sheet? Talk to us to learn more about how our programs can help you.