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How to Ask a Teacher for a Recommendation Letter for College Applications

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By Victoria Berels and Zoe VanSlooten

May brings on Decision Day for our seniors, AP testing, and other end-of-year tasks. This is when we see the results of all of our hard work with our students and celebrate their successes with them, and this is also the time that we turn our full attention to our juniors and the tasks they need to complete before school ends. One of these is asking for a recommendation letters. This may seem early, after all, the Common Application opens in August. However, many teachers are flooded with requests in September, and to write a thoughtful recommendation, teachers need time. Thus, the time to ask is now! However, asking for a recommendation letter can be tricky. Luckily, we’re here to help. Keep in mind that a teacher may say they don't have time to do this before the end of the school year but at least they know that you asked first.

Steps:

1. Select someone who knows you well

Whether it be a teacher or counselor, choose someone who knows you well so they can write about you in some depth. It’s also smart to choose a teacher who taught a subject that’s relevant to what you are applying to study. For example, if you want to study engineering, an art teacher is likely not the best choice; a physics or math teacher has seen you be successful in a similar academic setting to the program you are applying for and can tell the admissions board about it.

2. Select someone who can write about you positively

This may seem like it goes without saying, but choosing someone who can write about you in a positive light is important. The internet has many horror stories of students who asked the wrong teacher for a recommendation, and that teacher wrote a recommendation that the college opt to not accept that student. Yikes! Asking a teacher if they can write a positive recommendation is helpful in gleaning an honest answer.

3. Ask in-­person

Though it may be daunting to ask someone for a recommendation to their face, this is a way to stand out and convince the person that you are worth investing in. Additionally, bring a resume or a written description about yourself so your recommender has material to work from when they are writing about you.

4. Waive your right to read the letter

Though it may seem odd that you can’t read the praise that’s been written about you, waiving your right to read the letter on the Common Application website reassures the college that the writer of the letter has been honest in their appraisal of you. If you’re worried about waiving the right, perhaps select a different writer for your letter.

5. Send a Thank You

Because this person has spent their time to help you succeed, write them a thank you note and tell them how much you appreciate their time and effort.

Our students are always ahead of the college admissions game and you need to be too! For help in selecting the right person to write your recommendation, schedule an appointment with Parros College Planning! We take an individualized and holistic approach to each of our students to carve out the best path for their success.

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