Asking for recommendations? You might find this easy, or awkward, or somewhere in between. How do you get the best recommendations for your college applications? Follow these three steps:
1. Get Ready. Before you start asking teachers, counselor or others for a letter of recommendation, do your homework.
- Focus on familiarity. Teachers who know you best will write the best recommendations. Ask for recommendations from the teachers that you have a strong relationship with even if you didn’t receive the best grade in their class.
- Check with your school. Many schools have deadlines and requirements for requesting letters of recommendations. Put dates in your calendar and stick to them.
- Go for the maximum. The Common App and other systems list how many letters of recommendation are required. They also give you a number of how many recommendations are allowed. Plan to request the maximum number.
- Create a Recommendation Calendar. Check the dates your college applications are due, and work backwards. Add all dates to your calendar.
- Ask a teacher for a recommendation at least 4-6 weeks (follow your school’s timeline) before your applications are due.
- Plan for the recommendations to be done 2-4 weeks before your application is due.
- If you are doing early applications, you should request recommendations in September or October.
- Update your activity list. Give teachers/counselors your activity list, resume or brag sheet. This gives them information to use when writing about you.
2. Make the Ask. Use this checklist to organize your recommendation requests to your teachers. Put the following items together in a large 10X13 envelope and hand to each teacher/counselor you are requesting a letter from:
- Cover letter. Personal letter explaining the purpose of the recommendation (for scholarships, admissions, or special programs). Include dates you need recommendations completed by. Be sure to sign the letter.
- Resume/Activity List. List of all your activities through high school.
- Role of Recommendations. Provide a copy of The Role of Recommendations to teachers/counselors. This document explains what colleges are looking for in recommendations.
3. Follow up. Follow this recommendation checklist after you have requested letters of recommendation:
- Check progress. The Common Application, the Coalition Application and others allow you to track the progress of your application, including recommendations. Use this to view when recommendations are uploaded.
- Gently remind. Teachers often appreciate a gentle reminder about upcoming due dates. You want to be sure your recommendations are submitted on time.
- Write a thank you. Make a teacher’s or counselor’s day with a personalized, handwritten note thanking them for their assistance.
We provide several tools to help you obtain outstanding recommendations.
- Update activities list in GuidedPath. Use the Recommendations Survey to list your recommenders. Learn about GuidedPath Surveys.
- Use the deadline dates in your Application Plans to determine due dates of recommendations.
- View the Admissions Notes under My Colleges->Info->Admissions to see how many letters of recommendation are required.