The Beginner's Guide to Brag Sheets

Person writing in notebook
July 7, 2022
What Is a Brag Sheet?How Brag Sheets Lead to Stellar Letters of Recommendation What Should Go in Your Brag SheetBrag Sheet Tips, Tricks & ConsiderationsWhere to Find a Brag Sheet TemplateBrag Sheet FAQsFinal Thoughts

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/15/22

Although you may have been taught that it wasn't nice to brag, there are some exceptions where it's appropriate. A little bragging can go a long way when requesting recommendation letters. Read on to learn how to make a brag sheet!

The college application process is a long one. You need to gather many materials and craft stellar essays. The only documents you don't have to draft yourself are your recommendation letters; however, not having total control over that element can make some students nervous.

What if your recommender doesn't mention one of your achievements? Or what if they make a mistake because they can't remember something? To avoid these situations, we'll teach you everything about brag sheets, including what they are, how they make your recommendation letters better, and tips on how to make your brag sheets shine.

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What Is a Brag Sheet? 

So, what is a brag sheet? It's similar to what it sounds like. It's a document where you list your:

Think of your brag sheet as a more casual version of a resume, like a recommender reference guide. If you don't provide one upfront, some of your recommenders may even request one!

How Brag Sheets Lead to Stellar Letters of Recommendation

Writing a brag sheet for a letter of recommendation is an excellent first step in the process. Most colleges request recommendation letters from teachers who've taught you in junior or senior year core subjects and your school counselor or official.

Schools may permit extra letters from recommenders such as your boss, a supervisor at an organization you volunteer with, coaches, or anyone else you can speak about your character.

Getting into college can be competitive, especially if you have your heart set on attending one of the nation's best schools. When you're up against students with similar GPAs and test scores, qualitative application elements like essays and recommendation letters are crucial to help you stand out.

That's where your brag sheet comes in. Brag sheets can help recommenders produce detailed accounts of why you're an excellent college candidate. They provide them the insight they need on your:

Depending on how many students attend your high school, your teachers may be teaching hundreds of students every semester. Even if you and your teachers had a closer relationship, they can't remember every detail about you: we're sure they'd appreciate a refresher.

Writing a brag sheet for recommendation letters means you don't have to worry about a generic account, and it makes your recommenders' lives easier. More detail and evidence always make for a better recommendation!

What Should Go in Your Brag Sheet

Putting aside your humility and listing all the wonderful things about you can be both uncomfortable and liberating. However, there are many ways to help your brag sheet shine.

Considering Talking to Your Recommenders in Person First

You might want to let your recommender know that you'll be asking them for a letter shortly. There's nothing wrong with giving recommenders a heads-up.

If you don't talk to them before, you might want to tell them why you chose them as a recommender in person before you give them your brag sheet or write it down. Choosing recommenders is essential: the people who will provide you with the best letters aren't necessarily the most popular teachers in the school.

Think about why their perspective would be valuable:

These are just some examples to get you thinking. Consider the depth of your relationship and how they can speak about your character before asking the first people that come to mind.

Brainstorm Before You Start Writing

It can be tempting to dive right in and start writing down everything about you that makes you unique. However, you might want to slow down, take a breath, and brainstorm and organize your thoughts.

Creating a brag sheet outline is important because it ensures you mention everything you want your recommender to know while cutting through the information they might not need. Beyond the basics outlined above, jot down new ideas with bullet points underneath each category. Above is all the information that you should put in your brag sheet. Write down each category that isn't basic information, and write bullet points underneath that relate to it.

Keep It Organized

If your high school doesn't have a template, you can use one from the Internet or create your own! Whatever you decide to do, ensure your version is organized. Consider how professional resumes are structured: they're easy to read and have a logical flow.

Do the same with your brag sheet. While it definitely won't look much like a resume, keep relevant themes together for better readability.

Be Succinct: You Don't Need Pages and Pages

On the topic of borrowing resume elements, your brag sheet doesn't need to be a hefty document. While you might be tempted to give as much detail as possible, your recommender probably wouldn't appreciate a 20-page essay about your life.

Try to keep your writing tight wherever possible. Ideally, your brag sheet shouldn't be more than two pages unless your school's template asks for more.

Show, Don't Tell

“Show, don't tell” means including little details to make your experiences pop. For example: “I believe my ability to lead is one of my greatest strengths. This year I helped my club with events.”

This doesn't really tell your recommender what you did to help or the results. If you claim that you're an excellent leader, you want to back it up with more information. Instead, this example would be more effective:

“My ability to lead is one of my greatest strengths. For example, I organized the charity ball for the Sports Club this year. I organized the raffle, delegated tasks, and decorated the space. Because of our collective effort, we raised X dollars for X charity.”

Providing a little more detail helps back up your claims and give your recommender more concrete examples to write about in your recommendation letter!

Be Honest

Being honest may be the best advice we can give you. You never want to lie about anything you've done or fudge any details. There are a few reasons why not:

Your honest self is always your best self. You don't need to pretend to be anyone else in your brag sheet or the rest of your college application. Authenticity is always the way to go.

Consider Your Application Narrative

Although you don't want to skip details your recommender may need, you should consider tailoring your writing to reflect your applicant persona. Your college persona shapes your narratives and application elements, acting as the common thread between your materials.

If you're wondering what to include in a brag sheet, consider the theme of your essays and emphasize elements of your brag sheet to back it up without repeating anything. Figuring out your unique angle can be challenging, but an admissions consultant can help you identify what makes your profile so strong.

Organize Content in Categories By Importance or Relevance

When you fill out your information underneath your specific categories or questions, ordering them helps your reader get to the most critical content quicker. You'll want to put anything most essential or relevant to you at the top of each category.

Think about how you list activities in the Common or Coalition Apps or other college applications: your brag sheet's format should place the most important information at the top of each category.

You Don't Need to Come Off Perfect

Students who craft brag sheets may feel that everything needs to be perfect. That isn't true: briefly recounting when you faced an obstacle or “failed” can help. It shows perseverance if you can describe the obstacle and how you moved forward.

Colleges aren't focused on students who have never done anything wrong or made any mistakes. Admissions committees want to see students who take charge and better themselves, adapt their views, or learn skills to move past unsavory situations.

For example, if your GPA was much lower than you expected at the end of sophomore year, briefly explain why you think it was low and what you did to raise it in your junior and senior years. Showing growth is essential!

Make Your Brag Sheet Accessible

When we say accessible, we mean easy for your recommender to read and access. As such, we suggest not handwriting your brag sheet. Type it whenever possible: this way, you can email a copy to your recommenders, and provide them with hard copies. It makes it easier for them to keep your information on hand.

Edit and Review

Before you hand out your brag sheets, ensure you edit and review everything. Edit for concision so everything is clear and there's nothing that would confuse your reader. You want your brag sheet to look polished and professional.

Remember, taking care of small elements shows your professionalism, attention to detail, and makes it easier for your recommender.

Brag Sheet Tips, Tricks, and Considerations

Putting aside your humility and listing all the wonderful things about you can be both uncomfortable and liberating. However, there are many ways to help your brag sheet shine and offer a detailed recommender reference sheet. 

Considering Talking to Your Recommenders in Person First 

You might want to let your recommender know that you’ll be asking them for a letter shortly. There’s nothing wrong with giving recommenders a heads up. 

If you don’t talk to them before, you might want to tell them why you chose them as a recommender in person before you give them your brag sheet or write it down. Choosing recommenders is essential: the people you will provide you with the best letters aren’t necessarily the most popular teachers in the school. 

Think about why their perspective would be valuable. Consider these questions:

Consider how deep your relationship is with your recommender and how they can speak up on your character before you ask the first people that come to mind. 

Brainstorm Before You Start Writing

It can be tempting to dive right in and start writing down everything about you that makes you so unique. However, you might want to slow down, take a breath, and brainstorm and organize your thoughts in a rough draft. 

A rough draft is important because it ensures you mention everything you want your recommender to know while cutting through any fluff or information that they might not need. Above is all the information that you should put in your brag sheet. Write down each category that isn’t basic information, and write bullet points underneath that relate to it. 

Keep It Organized

If your high school doesn’t have a template, you can use one from the Internet or create your own! Whatever you decide to do, ensure your version is organized. Consider the way professional resumes are structured: they’re easy to read and categorized in a logical flow. 

Do the same with your brag sheet. While it definitely won’t look much like a resume, keep relevant themes together for better readability. 

Be Succinct: You Don’t Need Pages and Pages 

On the topic of borrowing resume elements, your brag sheet doesn't need to be a hefty document. While you might be tempted to give as much detail as possible, your recommender probably wouldn’t appreciate a 20-page essay about your life. 

Try to keep your writing tight wherever possible. Ideally, your brag sheet shouldn’t be more than two pages unless your school’s template asks for more.

Show, Don’t Tell 

“Show, don’t tell” is all about including little details to make your experiences pop. For example:

“I believe my ability to lead is one of my greatest strengths. This year I helped my club with events.” 

This doesn’t really tell your recommender what you did to help or the results. If you want to claim that you’re an excellent leader, you want to back it up with more information. Instead, this example would be more effective: 

“My ability to lead is one of my greatest strengths. For example, I organized the charity ball for the Sports Club this year. I organized the raffle, delegated tasks, and decorated the space. Because of our collective effort, we raised X dollars for X charity.” 

Providing a little more detail helps back up your claims and give your recommender more concrete examples to write about in your recommendation letter!

Be Honest 

Being honest may be the best advice we can give you. You never want to lie about anything you’ve done or fudge any details. There are a few reasons why not: 

Your honest self is always your best self. You don’t need to pretend to be anyone in your brag sheet or the rest of your college application. Authenticity is always the way to go.

Consider Your College Candidate Narrative

Although you don’t want to skip any details your recommender may need, you might want to consider tailoring your writing to your college applicant persona. In essence, your college persona shapes your narratives and application elements, acting as the common thread between your materials. 

Consider the theme of your essays and emphasize elements of your brag sheet to back it up. Figuring out your unique angle can be challenging, but an admissions consultant can help you identify what makes your profile so strong. 

Organize Content in Categories By Importance or Relevance

When you fill out your information underneath your specific categories or questions, ordering them helps your reader get to the most critical content quicker. You’ll want to put anything most important or relevant to you at the top of each category. 

Think about how you list activities in the Common or Coalition Apps or other college applications: you always want the most relevant activities at the top. 

You Don’t Need to Come Off Perfect 

When students craft their brag sheet for a letter of recommendation, they may feel that everything needs to be perfect. That isn’t true: briefly recounting when you faced an obstacle or “failed” can help you. If you can describe the obstacle and how you moved forward or rectified the situation, it shows your perseverance and will to keep trying. 

Colleges aren’t focused on students who have never done anything wrong or made any mistakes. Admissions committees want to see students who take charge and better themselves, adapt their views, or learn the skills they need to move past an unsavory situation. 

For example, if your GPA was much lower than you expected at the end of sophomore year, briefly explain why you think it was low and what you did to raise it in your junior and senior years. Showing growth is essential! 

Make Your Brag Sheet Accessible 

When we say accessible, we mean easy for your recommender to read and access. As such, we suggest not handwriting your brag sheet. Type it whenever possible: this way, you can email a copy to your recommenders (typically in a PDF), as well as provide them with hard copies. It makes it easier for them to keep your information on hand, and they’re sure to appreciate it.

Edit and Review Your Sheet

Before you hand out your brag sheets, take care to edit and review everything you wrote. Ensure you edit your brag sheet for concision so everything is clear and there’s nothing that would confuse your reader. Editing spelling and grammar helps your brag sheet look more polished and professional. 

Remember, taking care of small elements shows your professionalism, attention to detail, and makes it easier for your recommender. 

Where to Find a Brag Sheet Template

There isn't a “universal” brag sheet template. However, some high schools may provide a preferred template on their website that you can use freely. Some high schools may want you to emphasize some of your experiences.

For example, the Key West High School template asks, “At what do you excel? List your strengths in and out of school.” Neptune High School in New Jersey's template asks, “Is your academic record an accurate picture of your abilities and motivation? What circumstances, if any, have interfered with your academic performance.”

Always check to see if your high school has a template first! If your high school doesn't provide brag sheet templates, you can use the Common App's student brag sheet template. Learning how to create a brag sheet is easier with examples. Take a look at the first page of the professional brag sheet template below:

Common App brag sheet template


If you want to, you can even create your own brag sheet!

Brag Sheet FAQs 

If you still have questions about how to write a brag sheet, these FAQs can help.

1. Do I Need to Provide a Brag Sheet to People Who Know Me Well?

Even if you have a closer bond with your recommender, providing them with a brag sheet before is still in your best interest. It can be challenging to remember all of someone's accomplishments, even if you're close to them!

2. How Long Should a Brag Sheet Be?

Your brag sheet should be two pages long or less unless your school has a longer brag sheet template they want you to use.

3. What's the Difference Between a Brag Sheet and a Resume?

A brag sheet for a letter of recommendation is less formal and meant to provide your recommenders with more information. If your college application requests a resume, you may be able to rework elements to fit a resume's structure and purpose.

4. How Should I Organize My Brag Sheet?

You should start with basic information like your name, achievements, and honors, and then add more context where you need to. You can mention other elements later, like your top school choices, majors you're interested in, or your career goals.

5. I Feel Like I Don't Have a Lot to Brag About; What Do I Do?

Don't feel like you need to have 100 items on your brag sheet. Remember, extracurricular activities and work experience are more meaningful if you put more time into three of four engagements rather than 20.

Jot down whatever you have, even if you feel like it isn't enough or like it's not worth bragging about. Remember, your job is to give your recommenders a refresher on your achievements, goals, and personality, not to have the most jam-packed sheet.

6. Should I Give a Brag Sheet to My School Counselor?

Giving a brag sheet to your school counselor is an excellent idea. Your counselor is likely helping many students prepare for college, depending on the size of your school. Providing your counselor with a brag sheet can help them remember key details about you.

7. What Are Parent Brag Sheets?

Your guidance counselor may ask for a parent brag sheet. A parent brag sheet means your parents or guardians write about your high school experiences positively and honestly. If your parents are asked to write a brag sheet for you, you can help walk them through the experience and suggest things they should include.

8. I'm Uncomfortable Bragging. What Do I Do?

If bragging makes you uncomfortable, think of this document as a sum of your achievements. By the time you back up your strengths and everything else with evidence, your brag sheet is all fact anyway.

9. Are Brag Sheets Mandatory?

Brag sheets may not be mandatory, but you should check with your school counselor if you're unsure. Even if they aren't mandatory, your recommenders may ask for one anyway if you don't provide one right away. Remember, providing brag sheets can elevate your recommendations!

Final Thoughts

Brag sheets for recommendation letters help your recommenders better understand who you are: your accomplishments, goals, and personality. Don't forget to include all your basic information in your brag sheet and all of your relevant experiences.

Remember to give concrete examples and ensure your brag sheet format is organized and easy to read. With these tips in mind, you can craft stellar brag sheets and secure stellar recommendation letters.

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