Letters of Rec for College App - Who? When? How?

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If you are a high school junior you will need two letters of recommendation from your teachers as well as one from your guidance counselor. Now is the time to ask your teachers even if you have not received the official word yet from your school to do so. Why now? How do you decide which teachers to ask? How do you go about it? You want to ask now BEFORE your peers start asking. Some teachers, especially the popular ones, will be inundated with requests. You want to ask now to stand out, avoid the clutter and get their commitment that they will do it for you. Some teachers may only facilitate the requests of the first 20 – 25 students. You want to get your first choice.

Letters of recommendation are very important because they tell colleges something about you beyond your grades. Give it considerable thought, discuss it with your parents, and don’t delay!

Don’t ask the teachers in the class in which you are receiving the best grades. Grades will be shared with colleges via your transcript. Ask the teacher who knows you best from an academic perspective and a personal perspective. Have you had the teacher consecutive years? Do you go in for extra help? Is the teacher also your coach or mentor in a club? Have they taught your siblings? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, that is a teacher you should be considering.

The teacher does not need to be in your “major”. 68% of students go into college undecided, 80% of the 32% who declare a major change it by the end of the freshman year in college. It would be nice if you had one letter from a strong subject and your potential intended major, but it is not necessary.

 Don’t ask a teacher who is only your coach and hasn’t had you in class teaching a core subject (Math , Science, English, History Language) or a teacher who seems uninterested when you ask them.

How do you ask? That’s easy but let’s first be clear that THIS IS NOT SOMETHING YOU REQUEST VIA EMAIL. You do this in person. Say something like, “Ms. Smith, I have been thinking about my letters of recommendation for college and it would really mean a lot to me if you would write one for me.” After she says yes, thank her but also thank her in an email as well so she has a reminder and so you follow through with your appreciation.

Letters of recommendation are very important because they tell colleges something about you beyond your grades. Give it considerable thought, discuss it with your parents, and don’t delay!