In addition to high school transcripts, personal essay, and FAFSA application, most colleges will often ask students to provide letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation provide college admission officers with more insight into how a student will perform in a particular program, as well as how he or she will benefit the college community. Not sure who you should ask to write this important letter? Here are some tips you can use when asking for a letter of recommendation.
When asking a teacher to write your letter of recommendation, remember to ask early on in the semester. If you know this particular teacher is popular with a lot of students, asking early will allow them to focus on your letter with sufficient time since our favorite educators tend to have a busy schedule. With more letters of recommendation to write and requests to fulfill, there is always a chance that they will become less individualized as time goes on, so giving a teacher ample lead-time will benefit both parties!
To have a letter that best reflects you and your academic journey, make sure to ask a teacher that knows you well. Typically, colleges want to see letters from teachers you have studied with Junior or Senior year. For a better chance at getting a “yes” to writing a letter, try compiling a brief request note for your teacher that has information on what you would like to study – if you know – and what you think your strengths and weaknesses are. If this recommendation letter is for a specific scholarship or program, be sure to include information about that as well. This will help the teacher out and make sure that you get the best letter possible.
High school counselors often do this by default; but if they don’t, it helps to ask your guidance counselor for a letter as some universities may require it. As mentioned, you want to be sure that you ask early in the application process so that your counselor has advance notice and time to work on a glowing letter. Be sure to deliver a request letter with any important information the counselor should know while writing out their letter. For both teacher and counselor recommendations, be sure that you’ve waived your right to see the letters. This will take the pressure off the writer and they can write honestly about the assets and skills you bring to the table. Making sure you don’t read or have access to these letters also helps the admissions counselor reviewing your college application to trust the validity and ensure that they were not tampered with.
Extracurricular activity supervisors are great individuals to inquire about writing a letter of recommendation for you. In this instance, you want to be sure to provide information on where you’re applying, what you’d like to study, and any challenges that you have overcome in regards to the activity. Again, you want to be sure that the individual writing the letter for you has been a part of your recent endeavors. For example, if you played volleyball freshman year only, asking the coach won’t result in a comprehensive or quality letter. However, if you’ve done every school production from freshman year onward, and worked closely with the director, this is the better person to ask because you want someone that has seen you grow as a student and individual member of society.
When deciding you ask coworkers and bosses, make sure that these individuals are adults with credibility. Peers might be overlooked by the entrance advisors reviewing your materials at the colleges you apply to. It is also worth paying attention to the workload this individual carries. If the person you’re asking is super busy, they may not be able to write a good letter for you or even say no to your request. Whoever is writing your recommendation letter should be enthusiastic about doing so and want to help you succeed.
You must provide the essential academic information if you choose this route. This once again includes having information in writing about where you’re applying to, your academic history, and the specific instructions the university may require letter writers to follow. Someone outside of your academic life may not be familiar with the process so it is in your best interest to provide as much information as possible so that you can have a letter that reflects your true abilities.
When requesting a letter of recommendation, be sure to ask in person and stay in touch with them throughout the application process so that you can make sure it’s going smoothly for everyone. The individual you are asking may be special to you and vice versa. Once you know the letter has been sent out, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate them taking the time out of their schedule to write it for you. When someone believes in you, your academic capabilities, and your future, you’ll be sure to stand out during your admissions process!