Juniors: Time to Ask Teachers for Recommendations!


Many colleges require letters of recommendation from the people who know students best in an academic setting -- your high school counselor and teachers.  Letters of recommendation from teachers tell admission officers how students contribute to the academic and intellectual life of their high school.

Now is the time to ask those teachers whom you would like to write for you, especially if you are enjoying a class and connecting with the teacher or planning to apply under an early program. You want to ask teachers who know you well and have taught you recently in a challenging class.

When you ask, keep in mind that writing letters of recommendation is not part of a teacher's normal job duties and you should approach your teachers with a polite considerate request. Here are some pointers:

                *             Ask in person. No emails. A personal request is most thoughtful. Here's a sound bite: "I'm thinking ahead to college applications and wonder if you feel writing a recommendation is something you can do for me."

                *             Do not ask for more recommendations than you need. Pick two teachers and use the same two for all your applications. (Note: you will need to ask teachers who fulfill the guidelines of the colleges to which you are applying. For example, a college may require one from a math or science teacher and another from a humanities or social science teacher. Check the colleges' websites.)

                *             Say "please" when you ask and "thank you" when the teacher agrees.

Most teachers are happy to help.

One further caveat: many high schools have specific procedures for making requests -- including the earliest and latest dates you may make those requests. Find out your high school's policies and follow them.


For more information about letters of recommendation, including what to provide teachers, counselor recommendations and more, see Chapter 12, “Recommendations” in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.


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