What is a Cover Letter?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: What is a Cover Letter?
By Jens (Jens) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 04:16 pm: Edit

Hi Parents! Im just beginning the college application process and noticed how many of you mentioned including a cover letter. Exactly what is a cover letter and what should it comprise of? Also when giving out recommendations is it necessary to include your resume? And if so, is there a special format for the resume?
Thanks so much!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 04:45 pm: Edit

A cover letter is a very SHORT introduction to yourself to personalize the process. For the big state schools, and in the peak of admissions frenzy, it may just be another piece of paper, but for the smaller colleges with the more holistic processes, it adds a nice touch. Of course, as more people include this extra, it does not become an such an extra. It's nice to be able say a few things about the school that you may have noticed, something you like about the school, just a little something.

I always recommend a cover letter for each person writing your recommendations too. In that you should thank the person in advance for taking the time to write for you, summarize some things about yourself that you may want mention or that you want the person to remember, give them some personal info that may be relevant such as your mother's illness junior year, the special ed brother you have, that your parents are 1st generation Americans, you are first in your family to go to college--all sorts of stuff that they may not ask and is awkward for you to bring up in your application. It is always better for someone else to bring up things like that than for you to try to explain these things. Also if you have some out of school accolades and experiences that you want highlighted. Then include a brief resume of activities, jobs, etc with things relevant to the recommender maybe highlighted or marked in red. The format is not so important as the readability.

Understand that these people writing refs for you are doing this in addition to their regular jobs, and may not be at optimum conditions when doing the job. They may get writers block, forget some key things, have many other recs they are writing. Make it easy for them!

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