It’s better to ask a teacher who knows you well and how hard you worked than to pick a teacher who just gave everyone an A every term.
Asking for recommendation letters can be difficult, but it is a skill you will need for a long time. Whether you’re applying to colleges, grad schools, fellowships or jobs, you’ll likely need someone to write about how awesome you are. It can seem very complicated, but once you know how to properly ask for a recommendation, it is pretty easy.
Here are five key tips for getting college recommendation letters that’ll make the admission committee’s mouth water.
Who should I ask?
Generally, colleges require two letters of recommendation from teachers of core classes (these are math, science, English, history or a foreign language). Colleges also require a letter from your guidance counselor. Other letters from employers, coaches or mentors, are usually encouraged but do NOT take the place of two core teachers and your guidance counselor.
Which teachers you ask will depend on you and how well the teacher knows you. It is far better to ask a teacher who knows you well — one who can really write a recommendation about YOU and genuinely WANTS you to succeed — than to pick a teacher who just gave everyone an A every term. Passion is the most important part of any recommendation, and that is only going to come from the teacher that knows you and will go to bat for you.
When should I ask?
In advance. Give your recommender as much time as possible. Not only do these letters take time, but you are also not the only one asking for ‘em. Some teachers have to write up to 30 of those letters! So remember that your teacher is going above and beyond for you and give them the courtesy of a niiiice long window to work on that bad boy. You don’t want that letter to look rushed.
Usually students ask teachers from junior year, so you could ask for a recommendation as early as junior-year spring or over the summer. Generally, you want to aim for at least six weeks to two months of notice before the deadline.
How should I ask?
Your conversation, email or letter should go something like this: “Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr. Smith, I really enjoyed your class and think you know me very well, both academically and personally. I’m planning to apply to colleges this fall, and I was wondering whether you’d feel comfortable writing me a strong, enthusiastic letter of recommendation.”
It’s best to have this conversation in person to show that their letter means a lot to you, but sometimes you might not have that luxury.
After they’ve said yes, be sure to stay in touch about the process — teachers have a lot on their minds, so check in a month and a week before the deadline, even just to ask whether they have everything they need and to thank them.
Which materials do I need to give them?
You’ll need to give your recommenders a few things to make this process as easy for them as possible. Put everything in one folder so your recommender isn’t overwhelmed with paper and doesn’t lose anything.
You’ll want to give your recommender a copy of each college’s recommendation form, along with a list of deadlines, and even a Post-It note on each form that says when it is due. If your college accepts the Common Application, the recommendation form is available on the Common App website. If your college wants these recommendations in hard copy, you’ll also want to give your recommenders stamped, pre-addressed envelopes, one for each college you’re applying to.
Then you’ll probably want to give your recommenders some additional information about yourself. Sure, your math teacher might know that you struggled with pre-calc, you came after for extra help and you ended up doing well. That’s a great story, but your math teacher might not know that you also work a part-time job or you’re captain of the cross-country team or you’re a published poet. It is even more impressive that you cared enough to go after for help while having these other commitments on your plate. Write up a list of your passions and activities with concise, clear descriptions of what you do for each, and give a copy to each of your recommenders. This will make your letters even stronger.
After your recommenders have submitted everything, be sure to thank them. At the very least, write them a thoughtful thank-you card. You might also consider giving them a small gift, such as an Amazon gift card, homemade cookies or a package of their favorite candy bars. They helped you out a lot, and you may very well need them to write for you again later. Both you and they will be glad you thanked them.
No matter what you’re applying for, whether it’s college or a White House Fellowship, be sure to give your recommenders everything they need to write the best letter for you: time, materials and a thoughtful thank-you. If you follow that formula, your letters should be great.
Powered by Facebook Comments