Who to Ask
Deciding who to ask to write a letter of recommendation for you depends on several factors. First, let’s discuss who NOT to ask:
- Family members
- Coach (unless she/he is also a core academic subject teacher)
- A co-worker if you have a part-time job
You get the picture. It needs to be a teacher or school counselor who knows you well. For teachers, that means someone who has taught you recently, preferably in 11th grade. Colleges realize you change as you mature and the type of student you were in 9th grade does not necessarily demonstrate the type of student you will be in college.
It is also best if you choose a teacher who teaches a core academic subject such as math, science, English, social studies, foreign language. Admission officers use these evaluations to get a sense of how well you do in school in general and place more emphasis on these “more rigorous” subjects.
Don’t necessarily think you need to use a teacher from whom you received an “A” grade or a teacher who taught you in an AP, IB or honors course. It is more important to use a teacher with whom you had a personal relationship and who know you well, even if you didn’t do your best in her or his class.
Asking a teacher with a lot of experience may carry more weight than someone who has only two years of experience. However, it is more important that teacher really supports you rather than having a long career.
Many colleges still require a high school guidance counselor to also write a letter of recommendation. If you don’t know your counselor well, make an appointment and get to know her/him.
When to Ask
Asking a teacher to write a beautiful, heartfelt recommendation letter takes time. Waiting until the last minute to ask, or asking at an inopportune time is not recommended.
The best time to ask is during the second semester junior year. This gives you time to exchange information with her/him ( your resume or brag book) and also gives her/him plenty of time to polish their letter. If you are entering your senior year and you have not asked for letters of recommendation, pick your teacher and ask within the first week of school.
How to Ask
How to ask is just as important as who to ask.
Do not ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation:
- The first time you meet her/him
- When she/he is in the middle of class and is distracted
- Outside of the classroom (their home, at the supermarket, at a school sporting event…you get the idea)
- Last day of school
The best way to ask for a recommendation is by writing a formal note, using cursive handwriting, using a nice piece of stationery or note card and handing it to the teacher either before or after school. In lieu of that, a neatly typed letter , signed and dated by you will work. Remember to be sincere and to the point.
Teachers are in the business of helping their students succeed , and want to help you further your education. If you choose a teacher who knows and respects you, she/he will want to help you out as an individual. Most are experienced in writing recommendation letters for college bound seniors every single year and know what to do. They expect their students to ask and enjoy being part of college application process.
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