Madeline Riley

Before you graduate your junior year of high school, it’s a good idea to ask your favorite teachers for a letter of recommendation. Asking someone you look up to devote the considerable time and effort it takes to pen one of these letters can cause students some anxiety. Follow our tips to make the process seamless and most successful.

Start Early

In most cases you will need two teachers to act as your reference, and some colleges may even request a third reference. Asking early will benefit you in two main ways: (1) you won’t have the stress of letters of rec your senior year when you’re balancing all of your college applications, deadlines, and high school life, and (2) your teacher will be flooded with requests senior year, asking early may mean getting a more personalized letter. Some teachers also use the summer to write these, or if they’re going to wait until fall, you’ll have asked early enough that you’ll be first in line.

Ask In Person

Approach your teacher at an appropriate time, face-to-face. Asking by sending a generic email will more likely result in a generic letter of recommendation (the opposite of what you want). Remember you are one in dozens of students who will ask this teacher, make the ask as personal and respectful as possible.

Come Prepared

Remember that this teacher is busy and is doing you a huge favor by taking the time to recommend you. Give them the respect of coming to ask them with a concrete reason why you want them to be a part of you college application (they taught your favorite class in high school, you were challenged by their course but did well, you’ve had them for multiple classes and feel like they really know you, etc.)

Additionally, let them know that if you’re applying via Common Application, the CA will send your teacher a link with where to submit. If you’re applying via other apps, give your teacher directions on how to submit. Some schools have traditional letters, but others have questionnaires or other atypical recommendation forms, prepare your teacher for whatever may be required.

Give Them a Deadline

Even if you’re asking way in advance of your college application deadlines, give your teacher a timeframe to follow. Your college applications should allow you to see when your teacher has uploaded the letter, so if your teacher is late, you can follow up with them. Always be respectful and understand that they are busy! Send a quick check in email to see if they need any more information from you and if they have an idea of when they’ll be done.

Waive Your Right to Read the Letter

Waiving your right to read your letters of recommendation show college admissions boards that your teacher was candid whilst writing. Reading the letters is permitted, but gives the sense that you were worried your teacher didn’t have the best things to say about you. If you’re worried about what a teacher will say about you, ask a different teacher!

Send a Thank You

Send a thank you letter or email soon after your teacher uploads your letter of recommendation. We think getting a thank you to them within a week is an important way to express your appreciation.

Looking for more tips on navigating the college application process? Check out our blog for more information or set up a free consultation for individualized assistance.