During the College Application process, students may be asked to secure letters of recommendation from teachers and/or counselors. Your high school counselor and select teachers will prepare a letter of recommendation if required by the colleges and universities to which you apply. Conveying a student’s unique qualities is not an easy task. Very often, student and parent insight can provide valuable information that is worth including in a counselor and/or teacher recommendation. Seniors should bring the Student Brag Sheet and Parent Brag sheet to their senior appointments with their counselor. Teachers Brag Sheets should be given to teachers who have agreed to write you a letter of recommendation (see attachments below). Use the following tips to obtain the best letters of recommendation for your college application.
1. Ask the Right People to Recommend You
Many students make the mistake of getting letters from distant acquaintances that have powerful or influential positions. The best recommenders are those teachers, coaches, and mentors you have worked with closely. Choose someone who can speak in concrete terms about the passion and energy that you bring to your work.
2. Ask Politely
Remember, you are asking for a favor. Don’t assume that it is anyone’s duty to write a letter for you, and realize that these letters take a lot of time out of your recommender’s already busy schedule. Most teachers, of course, will write you a letter, but you should always frame your request with the appropriate “thank you” and gratitude.
3. Allow Enough Time
Don’t request a letter on Thursday if it is due on Friday. Respect your recommender and give him or her at least 2 weeks to write your letter.
4. Provide Detailed Instructions
Make sure your recommenders know exactly when the letters are due and where they should be sent. Also, be sure to tell your recommenders what your goals are for college so that they can focus the letters on relevant issues.
5. Provide Stamps and Envelopes (for letters not being submitted electronically)
You want to make the letter-writing process as easy as possible for your recommenders. Many letters will be submitted electronically through the Common Application. If you are applying to a school that does not accept an electronic letter, be sure to provide your recommender with the appropriate pre-addressed stamped envelopes. This step also helps ensure that your letters of recommendation will get sent to the right location.
6. Don't Be Afraid to Remind Your Recommenders
Some people procrastinate and others are forgetful. You don’t want to nag anyone, but an occasional reminder is always a good idea if you don't think your letters have been written yet. You can accomplish this in a polite way.
7. Send Thank You Cards
After the letters have been written and submitted, follow up with thank you notes to your recommenders. A simple card shows that you value their efforts. It’s a win-win situation: you end up looking mature and responsible, and your recommenders feel appreciated.