Six Quick Tips to Ask for Letters of Recommendation
Alright, it’s finally spring! Spring break came and went, and it’s time to hustle before the end of the school year. In your junior year, you’re probably starting to get hustled about the college application process, including asking teachers for recommendation letters. I used to be a school counselor… I know. This is probably one of the last things on your long list of to-dos, but let’s cut to the chase, this shouldn’t wait. Let me say that again, THIS SHOULDN’T WAIT! To help you get this done, I rounded up the best six quick tips and laid them out here for you. It’s not long, it’s straightforward and you could do this by next week. Sounds good right? I agree. Let’s go.
My BIGGEST piece of advice is this one. ASK NOW. ASK NOW. ASK NOW! (Say it three times and it sinks in, right?) Let me explain. Everyone has a favorite teacher, and a lot of times that teacher is also the favorite of 100 other students. Some teachers choose to limit the amount of rec letters they agree to write, and if you wait too long to ask, you might be turned down. Also, if you wait until the last minute, you aren’t putting the teacher in a great position. If you want your rec letter to reflect you positively, and waiting until two weeks before your application deadline is going to make that really hard to do.
Identify 3 teachers, ask 2
Most colleges ask for two letters of recommendation, sometimes even one! It is important for you to identify three teachers, and ask your top two. Here is the simple reason: in case one of the teachers you ask says no. It is important for you to have a plan in case one of the two teachers can’t write you a letter.
How to identify teachers
This tip is multifaceted, so bear with me.
Part 1: Choose the teacher from a class where you haven’t necessarily earned an A, but you worked your butt off. You went in for extra help, you asked questions, you were engaged. This rec letter is supposed to explain to the admissions team how hard of worker you are, that you go above and beyond, and you are more than your grades. It’s ok that you don’t have an A, it’s about the effort you have put in.
Part 2: I recommend asking two teachers of different academic backgrounds. I wouldn’t go for two math teachers, or two language teachers. It’s important to get some well-rounded background info on your academics. Pick maybe one English, history, or Language teacher, and maybe one math, science, or tech teacher. If you are planning in majoring in arts, definitely get your art teacher or drama teacher in there too!
Don’t ask before or at the end of class!
So here is the deal, the beginning and end of a class are always the most chaotic. Instead, send an email tell your teacher you would like to set up a meeting with him or her, and ask what day and time works best for them to meet with you. This way, you can also prepare for this meeting. See tip five below.
You want this recommendation letter to reflect the best parts of you as a student and the best way to do that is to come prepared. Bring a resume that details all your accomplishments, academic and non-academic (outside of the classroom). Not sure how to get started? Check out my previous post about writing a resume. Also, make sure you show up on time for the meeting you scheduled with your teacher, this shows you respect their time and yours.
Write a thank you and follow up email
Once your gracious teacher has agreed to write you a recommendation letter, send them a thank you email! This one seems obvious, but so many students forget this step. It’s important to recognize that your teacher is spending their free time writing you a glowing letter of rec, and sometimes this takes up to a couple of hours! Thank them for their time! In addition to thanking them, you can attach an electronic copy of your resume, and remind them of your earliest application deadline. Most teachers have multiple letters to write, and a simple reminder is helpful.
There are plenty of people like me giving advice out there, but just remember to stick to your gut and stay genuine in your approach. You can’t go wrong there. Now, get to it!