Getting a college recommendation letter from a teacher is a mandatory part of the college application process. Who you ask to write your recommendation is a critical decision that should not be taken lightly. In addition, so many teachers are inundated with requests for recommendation letters in the fall of each year, that it is important to ask the teacher early. The best time is late spring of your junior year to see if they would write on your behalf the following fall.
Think about the teachers you have had and pick at least 2 with whom you have interacted. Perhaps you have had multiple classes with them or they are the advisor for a club you are in or even a coach for a sport you have played. Finding a teacher who has seen various sides of you both in and out of the classroom would be my first directive. Try to find diverse teachers. For example, don’t ask 2 Science teachers.Get prepared. Look at the letter of recommendation requisite that comes with the college application. Some, like the Common Application, actually have a rubric and ask the teacher to rate you in various categories. Others give a brief overview of what they would like to be discussed in the letter of recommendation. Others just ask for a letter of recommendation with no specifics. So see what it is you are asking the teacher to do for you. In looking at these requirements for the recommendation, a teacher may come to mind as the perfect choice.
The earlier the better. I always told my own children to line up their choices before the end of the junior year. Only one of mine followed that sage advice. The rest, however, did ask as soon as school started. Teachers are usually flooded with recommendation requests come October. By getting your college recommendation letter lined up early, you have the best chance of getting a good, well presented letter that will be ready when your application is ready to be sent. Make sure you give them at least 3-4 weeks notice.
Be professional. Don’t grab them in the hall between classes. Ask if you can meet with them during their free period or before or after school. When you secure the meeting, then come prepared and bring the following:
1. A copy of your resume or activity sheet and even one of your application essays for their review. Here’s a great article on how to construct an effective college application activity sheet.
A list of the colleges to which you are applying, the due date of the
letter and the recommendation instructions. The instructions are important, as the recommendations vary in format from school to school. Some want letters, other have rubrics for the teacher to complete. In the same vein, some schools want the letters to be emailed or uploaded onto the admissions site, others prefer good old US postal service. If possible
pre-enter your name and personal information. I have heard more sad
stories of the college recommendation letter not being found in the
application file because it did not reference the student’s application
or social security numbers. Attach an addressed, stamped envelope to
each recommendation request that needs to go via regular mail.
3. Your personality. Be ready to answer questions they may have. The 2 top questions they may ask are: “Where are you applying and how/why did you select these schools” and “What course of study or major are you thinking of?”
Always and I stress always send a thank you note to the teacher once they have agreed to write your recommendation. Some students actually give a small thank you gift which, while nice, is not necessary. Once your application is enroute to the school, contact the teacher(s) to confirm that their recommendation was sent to the school. Give it a few weeks and check with the university admissions office to make sure it was received. Send a follow up thank you once the process is done and you have decided what school you will be attending. The teacher will be happy to learn your good news since they were a part of the process.
What To Do If You Can’t Think of A Teacher To Ask???
Trust me, there will always be someone that will write your college recommendation letter. However, if you are really at a loss, talk with your guidance counselor or an administrative personnel such as the principal , vice-principal, dean of students. Make an appointment and go visit with them and tell them of your dilemma and ask for their suggestions. Don’t stress… everyone is able to get a recommendation letter for their college application.
More great articles about the college application process in our Celebrate College sections
Here is help if you have been asked to write a college recommendation letter.