Letters of Recommendation

How to Get the References You Need

Most college applications request two or three recommendation letters from people who know you in and out of the classroom. It’s your responsibility to find appropriate people to write these letters on your behalf. You also need to give them enough time to write a thoughtful letter. Start by discussing the process, and possible candidates, with your counselor and family.

Whom Should I Ask?

Read the application carefully. Often colleges request letters of recommendation from an academic teacher (sometimes in a specific subject), your school counselor or both. If the college requests a letter from an academic teacher, and the subject is not specified, your English or math teachers usually make good candidates.

You should also ask one of your teachers from junior year, or a current teacher who has known you long enough to form an opinion of your potential. It is best not to go back too far; colleges want current perspectives on their potential candidates.It can also be good to get a recommendation from a teacher who knows you outside the classroom — for example, the teacher who shaped your performance in the class musical. Whoever you ask should be able to attest to your academic and personal achievements and potential.
When Should I ask?
Make sure to give your recommendation writers plenty of time — at least one month before letters are due — to complete and send your recommendations, but the earlier you can ask the better. Many teachers like to have the summer to write recommendations, so ask them during the spring of your junior year. If you apply under early decision or early action plans, you’ll need to ask at the start of the school year, if you didn’t ask earlier.How can I get the best possible recommendations?Talk to your recommendation writers. For teachers, it’s important that they focus on your academic talents and accomplishments within their classroom, because that’s what colleges are looking for in teacher recommendations.Talk to them about what you remember about their classes and your participation in them. Remind teachers of specific work assignments or projects you did, what you learned and any challenges you overcame. Give them the information they need to provide specific examples of your achievement.It’s also important that you spend time talking with your counselors and ensure they know about your plans, accomplishments and pursuits. You may want to provide them with a brief resume of your activities and goals; a resume can provide the best overview of your high school involvement and contributions.

Also, if there is some aspect of your transcript that needs explaining — for example, low grades during sophomore year — it’s helpful to talk with your counselors to explain why and how you’ve changed and improved.

Helpful Tips
  • Don’t be shy. Teachers and counselors are usually happy to help you, as long as you respect their time constraints.
  • Supply your recommendation writers with addressed and stamped envelopes for each college to which you’re applying, if the letters are required to be submitted in the mail.  
  • Provide teachers and counselors with deadlines for each recommendation that you are requesting.
  • On the application form, waive your right to view recommendation letters (This means that you agree that you will not see what your recommendation writers say). This gives more credibility to the recommendation in the eyes of the college. 
  • Probably you know your teachers well enough to know who can provide favorable reviews of your accomplishments. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask if they feel comfortable writing a recommendation. In some cases, you may have no choice about whom to ask, but when you do, make the best choice possible.
  • Follow up with your recommendation writers a week or so prior to your first deadline, to ensure recommendations have been mailed, or to see if they need additional information from you.
  • Once you’ve decided which college to attend, write thank-you notes to everyone who provided a recommendation and tell them where you’ve decided to go to college. Be sure to do this before you leave high school.


Source: svsli.wordpress.com.

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