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 them shine.
So, what is a brag sheet? It's similar to what it sounds like. It's a document where you list your:
Think of it 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!
Writing a brag document 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 supplemental essays and recommendation letters are crucial to help you stand out.
That's where your brag sheet comes in. If you need a letter of recommendation, a brag document 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 document for recommendation letters means you don't have to worry about a generic account, and it makes your recommenders' lives easier. You can include details that your recommenders may not have known about and provide good adjectives on your brag sheet for them to use in their letter.
More detail and evidence always make for a better recommendation!
Remember, though, that brag sheets are not resumes. If you’re writing a letter to a college admissions office or filling out your application, don’t include your brag sheet! It’s just for your recommender to see.
Remember, the purpose of your senior brag sheet is to give your recommender a refresher on you, your achievements, and your plans. However, it's best to start at ground zero. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create your brag packet.
This may seem obvious, but the first things to include on your sheet are:
Although your recommender may know this information already, you should include it anyway. This way, you can avoid errors in your recommendation letters, like your recommender spelling your name incorrectly or stating that you’re in the wrong grade.
Your academic achievements, like your GPA and test scores, are arguably the most important aspect of your college application, so you need to make sure they’re highlighted early on. In this section of your sheet, you can list the following:
Now, you can broaden your horizons to all the other things you’ve been involved in.
Extracurricular activities demonstrate your passions and interests, as well as your willingness to commit and take on different responsibilities. These are great qualities for your reference to highlight in your recommendation letter, as they’ll help you get into clubs in college.
Here is what you can list in this section:
Now that you’ve included the most important information on your sheet, you can add supplemental information if you still have room. This could be any information that will help your reference write a strong letter for you, including:
You may also want to put in some ways you would describe yourself:
Remember, you want to give your recommender everything they need to write a comprehensive letter without overwhelming them with a 10-page essay. Keep things detailed but concise.
Putting aside your humility and listing all the wonderful things about you can be both uncomfortable and liberating. Here are some extra tips!
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 in advance. 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.
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 an 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 on your sheet. Write down each category that isn't basic information, and write bullet points underneath that relate to it.
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 sheet. While it definitely won't look much like a resume, keep relevant themes together for better readability.
On the topic of borrowing resume elements, your 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 sheet shouldn't be more than two pages unless your school's template asks for more.
“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!
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 college application. Authenticity is always the way to go.
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 document, consider the theme of your essays and emphasize elements of your 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.
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.
You 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!
When we say accessible, we mean easy for your recommender to read and access. As such, we suggest not handwriting your 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.
Before you hand out your 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 it to look polished and professional.
Remember, taking care of small elements shows your professionalism and attention to detail, making it easier for your recommender.
There isn't a “universal” template. You can find templates online for a brag sheet for high school, an employment brag document, or even a navy brag sheet. However, some high schools may provide a preferred brag sheet example 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 student brag sheet template first! If your high school doesn't provide templates, you can use the Common App's template. Learning how to create a brag document is easier with examples. Take a look at the first page of the professional template below:
If you want to, you can even create your own template!
Ridge Oak Preparatory High School
Expected graduation date: May 2022
Standardized test scores
Composite score: 26
Student of the Year award
Band Player of the Year award
5K run for charity
New Orleans, Louisiana
Senior bingo night
New Orleans, Louisiana
Touissant's Grocery Store
New Orleans, Louisiana
Remember, your brag document doesn’t have to look exactly like these! As long as you include all the important information, you can format your sheet however you’d like. You may find it helpful to use full sentences and paragraphs rather than bullet points or to use a table or chart.
If you still have questions about how to write a brag document, these FAQs can help.
Even if you have a closer bond with your recommender, providing them with a brag document 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!
Your sheet should be two pages long or less unless your school has a longer template they want you to use.
A brag document 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.
If you need more clarity between the two, brag sheet example templates can be found above.
You should start with basic information like your name, achievements, and honors. 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.
Don't feel like you need to have 100 items on your 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 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.
Giving a brag document 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 this document can help them remember key details about you.
Your guidance counselor may ask for a parent brag sheet. This means your parents or guardians write about your high school experiences positively and honestly. If your parents are asked to write a brag document for you, you can help walk them through the experience and suggest things they should include.
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, it’s all fact anyway.
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, it can elevate your recommendations!
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 and all of your relevant experiences.
Remember to give concrete examples and ensure your format is organized and easy to read. With these tips in mind, you can craft stellar brag documents and secure stellar recommendation letters.