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Ask a teacher or mentor who has a strong relationship with you to write your letter of recommendation.

You know you deserve that college scholarship, not to mention admission to the university you want to attend. But the people who sit on scholarship and admissions committees don’t.

That’s where letters of recommendation can give you an edge. And in some cases, they are required.

Neither the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha or the University of Iowa require a letter from a teacher, coach, counselor or someone else who is aware of a student’s achievements.

Creighton University requires applicants to include one letter of recommendation from a school counselor, although students can submit more.

“We welcome others from teachers, coaches, mentors or other community members,” said Sarah Richardson, assistant vice provost for enrollment management at Creighton University. “The main objective is to help us understand better the context of the academic experience and the true character of the student applying.”

Most academic scholarships require letters of recommendation for a student to be considered, according to Scholarship Prowl. Another site, College Raptor, says scholarship committees want to see how well-rounded a student is; it’s about more than academics, though grades are important.

Letters of recommendation “provide a view into their relationships and connections with their teachers, the school and their community. Since you’re often choosing a professional you’re close with to write the letter, the recommendation will reflect on your own professionalism, respect for others and actions in the classroom. It’s a testament to how you treat and get along with faculty members as well as your peers,” the site says.

It’s important to have a strong relationship with your teachers, it adds. Don’t ask a teacher you don’t know well to write a letter of recommendation. Instead, ask a former teacher you are close with to say a good word about you. A coach is a great choice as well, since a student might spend a lot of time playing a particular sport. Athletics are a great avenue for learning and demonstrating leadership skills, among other strong suits.

“If you have a teacher who knows you as accountable, honest or a pleasure to have in class, this is one you’ll want to pursue for your letter,” College Raptor says.

Letters of recommendation give admissions officers insight into a student’s character, which goes beyond grades or test scores. Such letters, in a nutshell, should highlight the student’s accomplishments as well as their potential for success.

“Letters of recommendation are an important part of our holistic review of the student application,” Richardson said. “These letters can often put into context the high school record and the intangible pieces of what makes a student a good fit for the institution. We look to admit students who are not only very strong academically, but also possess the ability to work hard and overcome challenges.”

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