Crafting CVs and Letters of Recommendation
(Admissions Consultant and English & History tutor at The Edge Learning Center)
Let’s begin by discussing the importance of CVs (short for “curriculum vitae,” also known as “resumes”) in your applications to schools.
Your CV should be a one-page document (not more than one page!) which lays out your accomplishments as a student. It will often be the first thing a school sees, and an easy reference point that they will use when they are considering you as an applicant.
Your CV should including the following:
• Your previous schools’ names, locations, and dates of attendance
• The extracurricular activities in which you’ve participated, and the length of time that you participated in each activity, as well as any special accomplishments that you had during within that activity
• The names of any summer programs that you’ve attended, the dates of attendance, and what you did or learned within that summer program
• Any special awards or achievements that you’ve received in the past 4-5 years (including academic and extracurricular)
• If you have space, the languages in which you’re fluent and your hobbies
Remember to keep it to one page, and make sure it looks as professional as possible! You will be judged by how your CV looks. One of our Admissions Consultants can help you to put this information into a professional-looking template.
Next, let’s discuss your letters of recommendation. These are incredibly important to your school applications; many of us believe that your letters of recommendation are as important or more important than your essays.
First of all, typical recommenders include teachers, counselors, your school principal, coaches or leaders of your extracurricular activites, employers or managers in an internship or job you’ve held, etc. You want your recommenders to be people who have worked closely with you and, ideally, known you for a long time.
There are other possible types of recommenders (for example, family friends), but these should only be used in special circumstances. If you have a family friend who is a major public figure, or an alumnus of the school to which you’re applying, then their letter could be useful; otherwise, it will probably just cause the school to question why you couldn’t find someone who worked with you in a professional capacity to say good things about you.
More likely than not, you will not get to see your recommenders’ letters before they are submitted as part of your application. With that said, you can supply your recommenders with a list of your accomplishments and key achievements which can help to guide them as they write the letter. In general, recommenders quite appreciate this gesture, as it will help them to craft their letter and to think of things to say.
Make sure that you submit your requests to your recommenders well in advance so they have enough time to write and submit their letters! Not only is this courteous, it will make it more likely that letters will be submitted in a timely way. If you see that one or more of your recommenders have not yet submitted their letters (centralized application websites like Common App allow you to see this information), then don’t be afraid to reach out to them—politely, remember they’re doing you a favor—and ask if there is an obstacle or if there is anything you can do to aid them in completing the letter.
Good luck, and please let us know if you have any questions or if there is anything we can do to help you put together your CV or to obtain your letters of recommendation!
About The Edge
The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which students gained early acceptance to schools such as Columbia, MIT, UChicago, and more! Check out the rest of our 2019-2020 Admissions Results!