How to Write an Effective Brag Sheet for College Applications: Tips from Crimson Experts

17/06/202419 minute read
How to Write an Effective Brag Sheet for College Applications: Tips from Crimson Experts

This blog post provides essential insights for academically motivated high school students on how to create and use brag sheets effectively for college applications. A brag sheet is a valuable tool that captures your achievements, aspirations, and personal qualities, making it easier for teachers and counselors to write personalized and compelling letters of recommendation. In this post Crimson experts explain what a brag sheet is, how to write one , and how to use it, including tips on templates for streamlining the process. Several Crimson strategists are also on board to reveal how they help students optimize brag sheets in order to enhance the quality of recommendation letters and the impact and coherence of their college applications.


Brag sheets are a way for you to help your high school counselor or teacher write a more effective letter of recommendation. And, before you get too hung up on the notion you’re “bragging” — it's helpful to know that a brag sheet, despite the name, is really akin to a resume or a CV, but a bit more holistic, tailored, and informal.

In essence, a brag sheet is really just a repository of key information about you — from your name and contact info to the personality traits, academic achievements, and extracurricular experiences most relevant to the context for your letter and to guiding and assisting each individual letter writer.

When you're requesting a letter of recommendation from a teacher or counselor, you shouldn’t hesitate to offer a brag sheet — and don't think it’s pushy or something like that to do so. In fact, providing a brag sheet with a letter request will assist your recommender, will typically be viewed as a courtesy, and should improve the odds of getting a stronger letter.

As you think about how much effort to put into making brag sheets, don’t underestimate the importance of letters of recommendation in your college application. Using brag sheets can help you obtain the strongest recommendations possible, ensuring each component of your application is top-notch.

Brag Sheet Highlights:

  • What It Is: A brag sheet captures and organizes key biographical information relevant to the recommendation letter you're requesting.
  • Versatility: While crucial for college applications, brag sheets can also be useful for job or internship recommendations.
  • Support Tool: Attach your brag sheet to any formal request for a letter of recommendation to aid your letter writer.
  • Templates: Numerous templates are available online, including from the Common App, to guide you on what to include and how to organize your brag sheet.
  • School Requirements: Some high schools mandate the use of brag sheets and may require specific forms or templates.
  • Personal Resource: Your brag sheet can also serve as a checklist for your own application, capturing a variety of biographical traits, anecdotes, and themes you can draw on to enhance activities lists, college essays, or other components of your application.

Now that you know that brag sheets help teachers and counselors, can improve the quality of your letters of recommendation, and typically streamline the letter writing process, let’s explore in more detail what a brag sheet is, how to write one — with or without a template — and how to put your brag sheet to use to get the best results.

As a bonus, you’ll also get pro tips from Crimson strategists on how to optimize your brag sheets for college admissions, along with a brag sheets checklist that makes it easier to stay on track from start to finish.

1. What Is a Brag Sheet?

A brag sheet is a concise, organized summary of your achievements, skills, experiences, and personal qualities. It's like a personal brochure that provides your teacher or counselor with a detailed snapshot of your accomplishments, aspirations, and unique strengths.

A close cousin of the more familiar resume, a brag sheet is expected to present you in a positive light. Also like a resume, your brag sheet is expected to be sincere, genuine, and factual.

On the other hand, while a resume takes a wide-angle view of your education and job history, a brag sheet is really more like a a thumbnail of your college admissions applicant profile, including references to relevant personality traits, aspirations, or anecdotes.

Finally, a brag sheet will also typically be tailored to helping a specific letter writer remember (or remember more vividly and fully) various strengths or anecdotes you want them to be able to recall or attest to when they're writing your letter.

Sometimes students wonder why brag sheets are necessary. The fact is, your letter writer, be it a teacher, counselor, or coach… may find it harder than you realize to keep track of each individual student, their qualities, and accomplishments... And this is where your brag sheet comes in!

Your brag sheet will be like a cheat sheet or memory aid for your recommender, helping them trust their memory, check their memory, and complement or corroborate what they remember or know about you, equipping them to write a more complete, compelling and well-rounded letter of recommendation.

In fact, leaders at Harvard are quite emphatic about students providing lots of supporting information when requesting a letter of recommendation for college apps:

Provide your recommenders with all the information they need to write a good letter. This includes your own resumé and a draft of your application statement, if applicable; a description of the program...for which you are applying; and all logistical information about how they should submit the letter, including the deadline and the URL, email, or postal address that should be used to turn it in...

As you can see, it's a widely accepted norm to submit helpful information along with a letter request — a key reason why high schools students should use brag sheets.

Key Points to Remember about Brag Sheets:

  • Know What to Include: Add essential details (name, contact info, application goals). Highlight your personality, life story, motivations, academic and extracurricular accomplishments. This helps your letter writer craft a more specific and accurate recommendation.
  • Provide Context: If you’re applying to a specific program or major, or applying undecided but with a specific strategy in mind for charting an academic career, or have a very specific and compelling reason for applying to certain kinds of universities or programs, be sure to include that contextual information to your recommender.
  • Purpose: Present your brag sheet as a courtesy and as a tool to aid the letter writer and make the recommendation process easier and more effective. It's never appropriate to suggest or imply any intent to influence the letter writing process.
  • Impact: A well-organized, concise brag sheet helps secure a stronger letter. It ensures the writer has all the information needed to create a comprehensive and compelling recommendation, distinguishing your application in the eyes of admissions officers.

Remember, while your brag sheet should primarily highlight positive traits, some students may want to address an area of "weakness" or relevant challenges they've faced in school, work, or extracurriculars. This can help remind a letter writer of holistic factors that make your story more coherent, compelling, or memorable — increasing the odds that your letter of recommendation will corroborate important strengths and themes you want to stand out across your application.

What a Brag Sheet Is Not…

  • Not an endless laundry list random information about you, but a concise and thoughtfully curated repository of key personal qualities, aspirations, and achievements you want to be a focus of your applicant profile and that are highly relevant to the letter you’re requesting and the person who’s writing the letter
  • Not a document that is in-authentic, or contains exaggerations or misrepresentations
  • Not a place for revealing overly private details about your life, or any details that would not be appropriate in a job interview or in a college interview
  • Not meant to include information about others, about your relationships with others, nor comparisons between you and other students, providing only a concise snapshot of information about you that will help the recommender write the letter you’re requesting

Finally, while it’s called a brag sheet, it’s really meant to highlight true qualities and accomplishments in an objective fashion, with no bragging and boasting involved.

That said, it is expected that you’ll be eager to highlight positive traits supporting your goal — whether that goal is getting into a top university or landing an internship you’re excited about. Therefore, putting your best foot forward is a good strategy for your brag sheet, so it mirrors your best authentic you!

2. How Do You Write a Brag Sheet?

Writing a brag sheet may sound daunting, but by following a structured approach, you can create a valuable resource for your recommenders. Here’s a streamlined process to compose a standout brag sheet:

  1. Personal Information: Start with your full name, email address, phone number, and any other contact information.
  2. Personal Qualities: What qualities and personality traits would the letter writer likely have observed or want to make note of in the letter? Describe qualities like leadership, teamwork, resilience, or other skills that paint a fuller picture of who you are. Be sure to highlight these with a few selective adjectives and phrases.
  3. Academic Achievements: List your GPA, class rank, standardized test scores, and any academic honors or awards.
  4. Extracurricular Activities: Detail your involvement in clubs, sports teams, student government, or community service. Highlight leadership roles, initiative-taking, personal growth, or any significant accomplishments.
  5. Work Experience: Include any part-time jobs, internships, or volunteer work that have helped develop your skills.
  6. Future Goals: Mention your career aspirations, college major preferences, and any long-term objectives — especially those that most relate to reason for requesting the letter. This helps recommenders align their letters with your ambitions.

Once you’ve included all of the relevant information about yourself, be sure to create versions of each brag sheet that are carefully tailored to specific letter requests.

Here’s what to consider when tailoring your brag sheet:

  • the letter requirements
  • the context for the letter of recommendation and your goals
  • the specific individual you’re requesting the letter from: How do they know you based on their role (teacher, coach, counselor, etc.) and their specific interactions with you? What do you want them to remember about you when writing the letter?

There's no fixed format or recipe you have to follow when writing a brag sheet, but you do want to be sure it's concise, very easy for your recommender to read and navigate, and is tailored to the goal of the letter, the letter writer, and what you want the recommender to remember about you.

3. Using Brag Sheet Templates and Forms

Before you struggle to figure out the best format for your own brag sheet, keep in mind that a variety of brag sheet forms and templates are searchable online, including teacher forms and counselor forms from the Common App, that will give you lots of ideas for what you might include in your brag sheet and how to format it.

You can also ask if your own high school offers, recommends, or prescribes specific forms or templates; many high schools do and some of these are searchable online as well.

Brag sheet forms and templates can obviously streamline your efforts, guiding you through the process of documenting your experiences and achievements, helping you feel confident you’re not overlooking important content, and revealing helpful, concise formats you can use to provide your recommender the best support possible.

Tips for Templates

  • Consistency and Accuracy: Ensure all your information is accurate and up-to-date, especially if you’re “re-using” a form or template for different letter requests.
  • Customization: Tailor each brag sheet for different recommenders, if possible. Highlight aspects that the specific recommender can vouch for most credibly.
  • Clarity: Keep your brag sheet clear and concise. Avoid overly complex language or jargon that may confuse your reader. Remember, your brag sheet contains information about you, but it's not for you — its purpose is to help your letter writer, providing an easy-to-digest and easy-to-use document that streamlines the writing process and guarantees the best outcome possible.
  • Using the Right Form: The Common App and many schools provide different brag sheet forms or templates, depending on whether you’re requesting a letter of recommendation from a counselor or from a teacher, for example, so always check what forms are available and what’s expected or required.

4. How Do You Use a Brag Sheet?

After creating your brag sheet and tailoring it for a specific context, you’ll submit it to your letter writer along with your letter request.

Before using it, you’ll need to be sure it’s ready to submit:

  1. Review the letter for relevant content, clarity, and correct grammar and spelling.
  2. Ask a trusted friend and trusted adult (or two) to review the brag sheet and share any feedback or comments.
  3. Make any final changes if you find the feedback useful and on point. (Proofread again.)
  4. Simply provide the finished brag sheet to the letter writer, along with your formal letter request.

Keep in mind that timing is crucial when using a brag sheet. It’s important to talk to prospective letter writers early on, so you have a good sense of who's going to be willing and able to provide you a letter.

Leaders at Harvard recommend the following best practices for using your brag sheet and communicating with your letter writers:

Give your recommenders plenty of time. If possible request a letter up to a month, and no less than two weeks, before it is due. If you receive no reply after 4-5 business days, write again. If you still receive no reply, turn to someone else. Once someone has agreed to write a letter, send them supporting materials and follow up with them (politely) one to two days before the deadline unless you know that they have already submitted the letter. Don't forget to thank your recommenders and know that they will be very pleased to hear of the outcomes of your applications.

When using a brag sheet, remember to customize the content or organization for each situation, just as professionals tailor resumes for different job applications.

If teachers or counselors at your school use a required brag sheet form, template, or format, be sure you understand all school guidelines when creating and before submitting your brag sheet.

5. How Do You Submit Your Brag Sheet?

You can include the brag sheet as an attachment in an email or print it out and hand it to your recommender in person. Typically you'll provide the brag sheet at the same time you submit the formal request for your letter, along with instructions for completing and submitting the letter.

Remember though, you never want to suggest to the writer that you expect them to conform their letter to what’s in your brag sheet! It’s neither an expectation nor the point of a brag sheet to try and tell your letter writer what to write.

Simply provide the brag sheet along with your letter request and let them know you’ve attached it for their convenience, in case it’s helpful

Remember, the goal of the brag sheet is to make it easier for your teacher or counselor to write a strong letter of recommendation for you with more confidence and less effort — something prepared with care and submitted as a courtesy and convenience — so present the brag sheet in that light!

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6. Crimson Insights: Optimizing Brag Sheets for College Admissions

Ready to take what you’ve just learned about brag sheets to the next level?

We surveyed top Crimson Strategists to find out how they help their clients optimize brag sheets for college admissions. Study and apply the tips below to make your brag sheets even more effective, increasing the odds your letters of recommendation will be as strong as possible.

Tip 1: Tailor Brag Sheets to Spotlight Your Key Application Themes

One effective strategy for making your college application stand out is with a personalized profile theme:

An application theme usually showcases an interest, passion, or strength that defines who you are and what you bring to a university. Instead of presenting a disjointed list of accomplishments, a themed application weaves your experiences into a coherent story.

In this context, a brag sheet is an opportunity to get your letters of recommendation to resonate with the same theme, adding further impact, conviction, and coherence to your overall application.

To do this, our strategists recommend you tailor your brag sheets to spotlight the achievements, experiences, and personal qualities most relevant to your theme.

Tip 2: Tailor Your Brag Sheets for Each Recommender

Similar to resumes, for example, it may be helpful to think in terms of creating a more inclusive version of your brag sheet first and then tailor each brag sheet to align with the individual recommender and circumstances before submitting them with your formal letter requests.

Crimson Admissions Strategist Grace Wang offered this advice:

Students should  do a similar brag sheet for each teacher writing a recommendation and tailor it to include 3-4 bullet points at a minimum about their contributions to the class, as in — How did you promote learning in this class? How have you demonstrated your love of learning for the sake of learning and not just for a better grade? What else have you done to prove that you are a leader in the class? Every teacher/counselor needs gentle reminders and you want them to be specific to how they know you!

Be sure to consider how the specific letter writer knows you, and what they know about you. For example, what an AP History teacher vs. a basketball coach might have to say about you could be very different.

Tip 3: Use Parent Brag Sheets or Parent Input

Soon enough you’ll be asserting more independence as a young adult in college, but for now, Crimson strategists strongly recommend students get a parent or guardian to contribute to the brag sheet process. Why? What for?... Because parents and guardians, as astute observers of children’s challenges and milestones, are likely to offer observations or anecdotes that the student might not think of on their own.

“I send parents an email asking them to help contribute ideas.., as I feel they are usually first-hand witnesses of stories that illustrate student growth that may not occur to the student to include.”

- Vicky Pond, Crimson Strategist

Depending on your preferences, there are different ways to bring parents or guardians into the process, such as:

  • asking the parent or guardian to create their own version of the student brag sheet
  • using a parent/guardian questionnaire
  • asking a parent/guardian to read the student brag sheet and provide feedback

Incorporating the tips we've shared will require a few extra steps, but going the extra mile can make the difference when it comes to getting into your dream school!

7. Your Brag Sheet Success Checklist

Now that you know how to write and use brag sheets like a real pro, here are reminders to keep you on track from start to finish!

  • Include Contact Information: Start your brag sheet with your full name and best contact details at the top.
  • Be Relevant: Tailor the content to the specific letter of recommendation you need, whether it’s for the Common App, a particular university, or a job/internship application.
  • Utilize Templates: Use available templates to streamline the process. These can provide structure and help ensure you don’t miss any crucial information.
  • Submit Requirements: Along with your brag sheet, provide the official letter request, requirements, links, and any necessary templates.
  • School/Job Information: Inform your letter writer about which schools or prospective jobs/internships you're applying to.
  • Start Early: Send informal requests to letter writers months in advance. Many stop accepting requests once their plate is full.
  • Differentiate from a Resume: Understand that a brag sheet is different from a resume. Provide the right kind of information or both documents if required.
  • Know Requirements: Some schools may require specific forms or templates. Check if a brag sheet or a specific format is expected.
  • Common App Templates: For college applications, remember the Common App offers ready-made brag sheet templates for counselors and teachers.
  • Follow Up: Send polite reminders to recommenders, including reminder deadlines and any recent updates.
  • Express Gratitude: Once the process is complete, thank your recommender for their time and effort.
  • Understand Letter Protocol: Know that recommenders typically send letters directly to the school/employer, not to you. Clarify this if you’re unsure, with help from your guidance counselor, a Crimson admissions advisor, or by getting advice from an HR professional.

Use this checklist to stay on track as your prepare and customize brag sheets and submit them to recommenders.

Final Thoughts

Remember, a well-prepared brag sheet is more than just a list. It’s an expected courtesy, helps you brainstorm key achievements, experiences, and personality traits to highlight elsewhere in your application, and it’s a golden opportunity to potentially exert some control over the letter writing process.

With this in mind, we strongly encourage students to leverage brag sheets for college apps, using the expert tips provided to get the most out of the process.

If you’re seeking additional admissions guidance, personalized support from an experienced Crimson advisor can help you navigate your university applications with less stress and more confidence and submit stronger applications.

In fact, as you chart a path through challenges and decision points in the admissions process, a small investment in world-leading admissions advising can make a big difference when aiming for top schools.

Not sure if  Crimson's a good fit? That’s okay. It’s easy to find out more with a free consultation.

Schedule your own consultation today to tell us about your college journey, discuss what services or programs may be most helpful, and learn more about the Crimson network.

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