Requesting letters of recommendation is part of almost every US college application process.
But getting a great recommendation requires more than simply asking your favorite teacher to be a reference a week before your application is due.
So how do you go about requesting a letter of recommendation? And whom should you ask to write one?
Follow these pointers to make the most of your recommendation letters as you are applying to college.
The Best Time to Ask for a Recommendation
When requesting letters of recommendation for college, the sooner you ask your references, the better. This is especially true for teachers, who tend to be bombarded by reference requests all at once, as seniors prepare their college applications.
No matter whom you are asking, requesting a letter of recommendation well ahead of the college application deadline will ensure that your reference has plenty of time to construct a well thought-out letter of recommendation for you before the deadline. For most college deadlines (December or early January), this means it is best to start requesting letters of recommendation in early fall.
Whom to Ask When Requesting Letters of Recommendation
When deciding who to request recommendation letters from, it’s best to turn to people who know you in some sort of work-related capacity. Whether that means a teacher, boss, or athletic coach will depend on your personal experience in high school.
As a rule, you should be requesting a letter of recommendation from at least one teacher. Your primary purpose at college is meant to be academics, so it’s best to have a teacher who can attest to your academic efforts. If you are not an A+ student, don’t freak out. A teacher you have a good relationship with will likely focus on your positive aspects, like your work ethic and motivation.
You may have fostered relationships with mentors other than teachers who also will make good references, like employers, volunteer leaders, and sports coaches. Like teachers, these people can attest to personal characteristics like work ethic and dedication, which are appreciated by US college admissions committees.
It’s Your Job to Take Care of the Details
Be aware that it is your job to take care of details like deadlines and delivery. Provide each person you are requesting a letter of recommendation from with:
- a list of the schools where you are applying
- application deadlines for each school
- how to return the recommendation letter
The school’s application should specify if letters of recommendation can be given to you in a sealed and signed envelope, and then sent in by you with the rest of your application.
However, your references may have to send the recommendation letter to the schools themselves. In this case, remember to provide your references with an addressed and stamped envelope so they can send the recommendation letter to the proper schools.