A letter of recommendation is brief and formal statements that highlight your achievements and positive qualities, showcasing your ability to succeed in school. Making a good impression while sailing through school is especially vital if you are planning to attend college. A good recommendation letter bolsters your admission possibilities, and those teachers you work with throughout school are valuable resources. Recommendation letters tell college admission boards intangible things about you that are not reflected in grades or test scores.
The Best People to Ask for a Recommendation
Choose two or three teachers with whom you’ve had positive relationships. Choose someone who thinks you are a great student and has encouraged you in your studies, or ask someone who has coached you in after-school activities. The positive experiences you’ve shared give them something tangible on which to base their recommendation.
Approaching a Teacher
Schedule a time to meet them for a chat in their classroom. Scheduling ensures that you have time to talk a bit without being rushed. You can catch up on what you’ve been doing since attending their class if it’s not a current one. You can then ask them if they are willing to write a college letter of recommendation. Let them know that you are asking because you trust them.
Requesting a Letter via Email
It’s quite acceptable to ask for a recommendation letter by email, but make sure it’s written in letter format, not just two lines dashed off in a hurry. Unless you know the teacher by their first name, address the email with their title. Begin by asking if they are willing to write a recommendation letter. Include your name, which of their classes you attended, which school you are applying to and the application due date. Ensure the text is formatted correctly and contains no grammatical, punctuation or spelling errors.
Determining the Type of Letter They Intend to Write
Many teachers put a great deal of time and effort into singing the praises of promising students. Some teachers prefer to write a short generic letter, while others use a template. Rather than asking outright about their style, ask them how they normally format their letters and what kind of information they like to include. Their response gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Including Pertinent Information
Provide each recommender with information that helps them craft a letter suited to your needs. To help them write an accurate representation of your character and abilities, give them access to your application materials, a copy of your college essay or a summary of your educational goals. Always provide the teachers with properly addressed, neatly typed and stamped envelopes.
Following up With the Teacher
A short expression of recognition for their helpful assistance in reaching your goals is an appreciated courtesy. You can stop by their classroom, drop them a note or write a friendly email thanking the teacher for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation. You can ask if there is any additional information they need in order to write the letter.
Sending a Reminder
It’s up to you to check in with your teachers regarding the status of your letter. You don’t want to overwhelm them with reminders, but teachers are busy, time passes, and deadlines arrive before they realize it. Write a quick email to check on the progress of your letter. Wait a few weeks before emailing again, but always be respectful of their time and other responsibilities.
After the Letters Are Sent
Relax. You’ve earned it. The reams of paperwork are finished — from transcripts to your spectacular essay. Now you can look forward to the mail every day. Which schools accepted you? Which ones did not? You wonder if you made any mistakes or missed any deadlines. But you know you didn’t, so just enjoy the anticipation of college days to come.
Updating Teachers on Your Application Status
As acceptances arrives, keep those wonderful teachers who took the time to do a letter of recommendation for you informed of your progress. Teachers do recommendations out of compassion and the care they have for their students. In addition to their school and personal life obligations, in one application cycle, teachers often write 50 to 70 recommendation letters. Keeping them posted on your progress is a nice way to show ongoing appreciation for their efforts on your behalf.
Saying Thank You
The importance of expressing thankfulness to teachers who went out of their way to help you get into college cannot be stressed enough. Instead of buying a generic thank you card, consider making one yourself or choose an attractive card with a blank interior that you can personalize. Perhaps recall something funny you shared in class or an impactful memory that teacher created for you. Gifts are trickier, but if the school permits consider giving them a gift card or perhaps a memento from the college you chose.