Years ago, my mother forced me to be in cotillion. That meant once a month I had to put on some dumb dress with a doily wrapped around the neck, dig in my drawers to find a matching pair of white gloves, and go stand around a stuffy country club ballroom with a bunch of other awkward middle schoolers. I was a good seven inches taller than all the boys, which did not make things any easier on my self-esteem.

I hated it. I was much more comfortable in a ponytail and dirt rubbed sweatshirt from the softball field. But she made me go dutifully every month (matching gloves or no), and despite my grumbling, I actually learned a thing or two.

At the end of the night, after all the waltzing and choosing of the correct fork was over, we had to say thank you to the evening’s hosts. There was a formula for the thank you, which I recited so often it was thoroughly committed to memory.

Now, in my work helping students plan for college, I teach the formula for the perfect thank you note. I ask students to send charming, memorable notes to most everyone who helps them along this journey: teachers who write recommendation letters, high school counselors who give good advice, college tour guides and professors, admissions officers, and so many more.

It’s important to say thank you. It takes the support of all kinds of people to help you get into the school where you will be most successful. Thank you notes are not only the right thing to do, but they can make a difference in the quality of support you get, the impression you make, and the way you are remembered.

Colleges want polite, mature students. That means if while you are on campus a professor takes the time to talk to you about a program you are interested in, or if a tour guide helps you to explore a school, or if your teacher agrees to write you a letter of recommendation despite the zillions of other things she has going on, you need to say thank you.

So how should you do that? Here’s the formula:

Dear So-and-So,

Thank you so much for… I especially appreciate how you/the way you… (INSERT SOMETHING SPECIFIC TO THE PERSON HERE). I’m excited about the opportunity to… Thank you again for all your support/encouragement/advice/counsel/assistance/guidance.



There’s nothing too fancy about it, but you’d be surprised how many students do not send these important little notes. Of course, you are not just any student and will certainly send thank you notes along your way.

Remember to be prompt and proper. That means no emails or texts. Send a handwritten note, and send it right away. Address the envelope legibly and include your return address.

That’s it! You are well on your way towards being the type of student a college would be lucky to have on campus.

Have more specific questions? Want help? Email me: