Letters of recommendation give admissions officers a better sense of you and your personal character than your grades and accomplishments alone will do. But don’t leave this important step to chance. Set yourself up for success by following these easy steps.
1) Make an impression! Long before it’s time to ask for letters of recommendation, work on making a good impression on your teachers by being an active participant and asking thoughtful questions in class. If you’re struggling with a particular subject, don’t despair. Ask for help and show that you’re willing to work hard to overcome challenges.
2) Check admissions guidelines. Some colleges will spell out who you can ask for letters of recommendations. Typically it’s teachers and high school counselors.
3) Choose the right people. It’s important that the teachers/counselors you ask are people who know you best, since they should be able to share who you are personally, not just what your accomplishments are.
4) Ask in person. Make an appointment or talk with your teacher/counselor after class. Politely explain why you think their input would be valuable.
5) Give plenty of notice. Ask teachers and counselors at least six weeks ahead of the deadline.
6) Provide guidance. If there are particular attributes you’d like your teacher/counselor to highlight, let them know. Perhaps they can speak about your leadership skills in student government or your tenacity in learning a second language.
7) Make it easy for those who are recommending you. Share the online recommendation forms or a printed form and stamped envelope so it’s easy for people to fill out the letter.
8) Highlight why to recommend you. Provide teachers/counselors with your transcript as well as a resume highlighting your achievements while in high school.
9) Send a friendly reminder note. Check-in about a week before the letter is due to make sure it’s been sent.
10) Waive the right to review letters. This gives the person recommending you more freedom in their letter—and usually makes admissions officers feel more confident in your abilities.