How to Ask for College Recommendations

How to Ask for College Recommendations

Many of the colleges you apply to will require you to submit recommendations.  Here are some suggestions of what you should and shouldn’t do when asking for a recommendation.

  • Get to know possible recommenders.  During your high school years, make an effort to get to know teachers in subjects you are interested in so that when it comes time to ask, they are happy to supply a strong recommendation.  Getting to know your guidance counselor will help them steer you towards the right college and will pay off when it comes time to write a recommendation.
  • Select possible recommenders.  A recommender should be someone who knows you well and can give an honest and candid opinion of your academic abilities and your personality.  Many schools require your recommendations come from a teacher or guidance counselor. Other people you might consider asking are employers, coaches or activity leaders.  Unless they are alumni, don’t ask family members or friends for recommendations as there are assumed biases there. 
  • Cherry pick teacher recommenders. It’s quality, not quantity, that admission officials are looking for so carefully select the right recommenders for each application. Teachers in your planned area of study are ideal. Or find teachers who understand your learning style and know what you can handle academically. Don’t limit yourself to those classes you got A’s in – if you did an extraordinary job on a special assignment or got to know a teacher through an extracurricular activity, seek them out as recommenders. 
  • Ask in person for a recommendation. This shows how important the recommendation is to you and gives you a chance to answer questions and clarify any doubts the recommender might have. It also gives you the opportunity to forge an even stronger relationship with a teacher, something that might help you later on in your career. 
  • Give them enough time. Ask recommenders at least two weeks in advance of the deadline to make sure you give them time to prepare the recommendation and send it off. Don’t forget that other students are asking as well so the earlier you get to them, the more personal effort they’ll put into the writing. 
  • Make it easy for the recommender. Remind them of the class, activity, job, sport and tell them what you’d like them to write about. Give them any recommendation forms that come from the college to which you are applying and go over the deadline. Provide a stamped, addressed envelope, with additional postage in case they include backup documentation.
  • Follow up with your recommender a couple of days in advance of the deadline to make sure they remembered. Don’t check in too often as you don’t want to become a pest.
  • Thank them afterwards, either in person or with a handwritten note.
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