Brag Sheets 101: What They Contain and Why They Matter

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Contrary to how they sound, brag sheets are not supposed to make people envious of you (although some definitely might). However, you aren’t that far off. Brag sheets are meant to highlight all your best qualities, show just how amazing you are right now — and what an incredible student you could be.

But why do you need a brag sheet in the first place? Is there a reason every student is advised to write one? Who do they serve, and should you send them to the admissions committee directly? It’s time to answer all the burning questions and talk about why brag sheets matter and what they should contain.

A Good Recommendation Letter Could Earn You a Coveted Spot

Before delving further into the matter, you first have to learn more about letters of recommendation. Once you’ve perfected your personal essay and done everything else your college application requires, you’re ready to ask your mentor, coach, or favorite professor to recommend you to the admissions committee.

Now, you may be wondering why your grades and academic achievements aren’t enough to earn you a spot at your preferred college. Well, as with most things in life, you have to “sell” yourself and stand out. There are hundreds of applicants that have done the same things as you. They have achieved the same grades and showed an equal level of potential. Thus, you have to figure out a way to stand out. In the end, there’s no better way to do that than by asking someone else to “brag” about you.

In your personal essay, you will be the one talking about yourself and listing all you have achieved. You will explain how specific experiences in life have inspired you to not only work hard but to apply to a particular school. The essay contains a description of how you see yourself and what you think you can do as a student.

However, it would be too easy for committees to just read the essays and form their opinions based on those documents alone. After all, there’s nothing stopping anyone from “embellishing” the truth a bit. Thus, they ask for letters of recommendation. In those letters, notable figures in your academic life can talk about your achievements, speak on your behalf, and show why they believe you are the right fit for a particular college.

When Recommendation Letters Matter the Most

Sometimes, your grades may not be able to reflect who you indeed are and how successful a student you can be later on. Perhaps you’ve had a tough year and couldn’t keep your grades up at one point. Maybe you were going through stuff and couldn’t focus.

Whatever it is, you cannot fix it now. What you can do, though, is use recommendation letters to your advantage.

Make sure you ask the recommenders to talk about how you bounced back from all the troubles you went through. Additionally, ask them to highlight things the committee may not get to see in the rest of the application. In essence, the letters should showcase you in the best light possible. More importantly, they ought to contain specific examples of how you improved yourself and what that says about you and your skills, work ethic, etc.

Contents of a Recommendation Letter

So, what does the perfect recommendation letter include? As it turns out, a lot of things! Additionally, you need to have a few of them written to up your chances (but don’t go overboard).

Overall, the admissions committee will look for the following:

The Letter Was Written by Someone Who Truly Knows You

The first thing the committee will look for is how well the recommender knows you. They won’t be easily swayed by seeing a famous name has written it. So, if you were looking for an expert in your future field of study as a recommender, drop that idea immediately.

The whole point of the letter is to talk about your character and reveal who you truly are. It should mention what your hopes and dreams are, as well as how you’ve fought through and came out victorious through some of life’s hardest challenges.

Thus, the best person to ask to write a letter of recommendation is someone you have worked with closely throughout the years. Ideally, it should be a professor, a mentor, or a coach who has witnessed how incredible you are and is ready to give their own account of it.

The Letter Includes Examples of How Great You Are

Although it may seem obvious by now, it should be emphasized: the letter has to contain examples of some of your traits, skills, etc. It cannot just talk about how amazing you are and how it would be a great idea to give you a spot at a particular college. No one gets an acceptance letter with such a recommendation. More importantly, no matter your grades or how truly magnificent you are — you won’t either. Therefore, aim to help the recommenders write a letter that offers specific examples. For that, brag sheets are absolutely necessary.

The Letter Is Personal

It goes without saying that the letter should feel as personal as possible. Of course, the recommender will keep a certain level of distance. However, they have to show through their words that they know you and have worked with you on multiple occasions.

They ought to emphasize your good sides, skills, and experiences by getting more into your personality and what really makes you tick. In essence, they cannot just list your achievements and hope for the best. The letter must be personal and able to give a good, insightful description of who you are.

The Letter Was Written by Someone Who Believes You Can Achieve Your Goals

You should ask for two or three recommendation letters, so why not make one of those specific to the field you want to study and your goals? For example, if you wish to pursue a degree in literature or perhaps join the ranks of the best American novelists in the world, you should ask your English teacher to serve as a recommender. Their expertise and knowledge of the field of study you want to pursue should cement the overall impression. More importantly, it should present you as the perfect candidate.

The Letter Is in Line with What the College Stands For

Finally, remember that neither you nor the recommender should go into this whole process blindly. Colleges do say what they are looking for in candidates, so use that to your advantage. If a college is particularly interested in students who have focused on community service over the years, aim to show how experienced you are in that field in your letter of recommendation. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to send in a letter by your English professor. Still, a letter by someone who has witnessed your volunteering firsthand is a better choice.

Why Recommendation Letters Need Brag Sheets

So, what are brag sheets, really?

Well, they are summaries you can provide your recommenders with so that they don’t forget to mention some of the achievements and experiences the admissions committee might be interested in.

You see, recommenders are usually quite busy, and there’s a good chance they are writing recommendation letters for a variety of people. Thus, they are sometimes forgetful, which is why brag sheets help them immensely. If they have a brag sheet to use for reference, they can easily remember what someone has done and how they’ve worked with them in the past.

Additionally, take into account the fact some schools are now asking for brag sheets as a way of having all you’ve done and what you aim to achieve in one place for easy access. Therefore, these aren’t just things you can haphazardly write in a few minutes. Brag sheets have to look and feel professional and be as neat as possible. Most importantly — they must contain up-to-date, accurate information.

Contents of a Brag Sheet

Standard Information

When writing the brag sheet, remember to first write your name, contact information, and details about your school. If needed, the admissions committee should know how the school is called, when you are going to graduate, and your GPA. Additionally, the brag sheet should contain information about your standardized test results.

Activities and Work Experience

Once you’ve given all the details about you and your academic profile, it’s time to list the achievements and activities you’ve taken part in. You ought to give a brief description of what the activity was about, which role you had, and when you engaged in it.

The activities section can include any academic and extracurricular clubs you’ve been a part of. Furthermore, if you’ve been a member of a sports team or any out-of-school clubs, now is the time to mention them.

Once you have filled in that section, it’s time to talk about any work experience you have had. Even entry-level jobs, such as working at a McDonald’s, count. You might have shown your work ethic there and learned skills that could help you later in life. Therefore, don’t be afraid to mention them; use every experience to your advantage.

Awards, Goals, and Additional Notes and Information

Finally, don’t forget that awards count, too. They testify to your know-how in certain fields, as well as how successful you have been in your previous endeavors. What’s more, you should mention what your goals are as well. That helps the committee recognize the potential you may bring to the school you’re applying to.

The “Notes” section is there to explain some things you feel need clarifying to give an accurate representation of your character. In essence, those notes should help the recommender understand you better, so use this section wisely.

Tips on Writing an Incredible Brag Sheet

Make Sure Your Grammar and Spelling Are Up to Standard

There’s nothing worse than showing the committee you haven’t even bothered to read the brag sheet before sending it in. Therefore, read it once, reread it, and then ask someone to go over it one more time to ensure everything makes sense. Additionally, run the brag sheet through a program such as Grammarly.  It can show you what doesn’t sound good and all the spelling and grammar mistakes you’ve made.

Keep It Classy and Professional-Looking

Comic Sans is never a good choice, especially if you’re writing something that can make or break your future. Instead, opt for good old Times New Roman, font size 12. If you want to emphasize a heading, for example, go for indent or bold. And — although this should be obvious — remember that the font should be black and that the brag sheet shouldn’t contain any pictures.

Be Concise

Brag sheets are a bit like professional summaries of your achievements. Hence, you ought to keep yours as short as possible — ideally, only one page long. Of course, you should include everything you’ve done but stick to the important stuff. Relevance is crucial here, so list only the things you believe will make a good impression. Mention the actual results of some of your activities. For example, if you’ve taught children English, say how many of them have improved at school. However, don’t go into too much detail. If someone wants to hear more about a particular activity or experience, they’ll contact you.

Go for a Specific Format If Your School Has It

In general, there are no formatting rules when it comes to brag sheets. It’s essential to keep them professional-looking, though, so make yours neat and to the point. Also, check if your school has a specific format you should use and that your coaches and teachers are most comfortable with.

Don’t Rush It

Instead of rushing through the whole process once the application deadline approaches, start writing your brag sheet as soon as you begin taking part in clubs, getting awards, etc. Keep all the information on the achievements in a specific folder/binder so that you don’t forget about anything. Additionally, make sure the brag sheet is always up to date. Keep adding things to it so that you don’t have to rewrite it entirely in the end.

Tips on How to Help the Recommender Write an Outstanding Letter

Ask them to write it (in person, always) well before the deadline. They might not have time to write the letter for you, so it’s better to find that out sooner rather than later. On the other hand, they may need more time than usual because they’re too busy right now. Give them a few weeks, at least.

Share with them information about the schools you’re looking into. Since they have to write a letter that highlights all your strengths, it’s imperative to include them in the whole application process. Therefore, apart from the brag sheet, give the recommender information about a particular school’s mission, your goals, and what they’re looking for in potential students. That way, they’ll better understand what they should write about and compose an incredible letter.

Don’t leave them in the dark regarding the logistics of it all. Of course, don’t forget to tell them when the letter is due. The recommender should also know whether they should send the letter to the school directly or if they have to upload it somewhere. Additionally, they may wonder whether you’ll send them a link to all the data.

Final Thoughts

Although a bit daunting, asking for and getting the letter of recommendation you deserve is crucial if you want to get into the school of your dreams. For that, you need to write a good brag sheet first.

Give the recommenders all they need to write a top-notch letter by summarizing what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, and what you’re planning to achieve in the future. Only then can you be sure you’ve given it your best. Better yet, with an amazing brag sheet, you may hope the admissions committee notices the effort as well.

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