Applying to college can be a daunting, exhausting exercise. There are college visits, scholarship entries, entrance essays, recommendations to procure, and more forms to fill out than you could possibly imagine. This is on top of your regularly scheduled homework, studying and trying to have a social life. It’s a lot to keep straight.
We’ve provided a list of DOs and DON’Ts when asking teachers for recommendations.
DO ask your teacher in person.
Sure, it can be a little nerve-wracking. But this is going to take a significant chunk of your teacher’s time and you want them to think favorably of you. Approach them during a quiet time, and ask politely.
DON’T send an email, leave a note on the desk or demand a recommendation.
Remember, writing you a recommendation should be seen as a favor, and being nice is going to get you the best result.
DO give your teacher plenty of time to write a thoughtful recommendation.
A month in advance would be ideal. Remember, this is not only a favor, but a favor that a lot of other students may be asking of him or her as well.
DON’T wait until the last minute…
…then ask your teacher to write you a note with only days to spare. If he or she agrees, it will be rushed, generic and disrespectful of their time. And remember, if it isn’t enough time, and they decline – don’t place the blame on the teacher!
DO ask a teacher who knows you well.
It doesn’t have to be a class where you earned A’s. In fact, a bit of a struggle and a teacher who helped you through may be able to write a much better recommendation than a teacher who only knows you as “kid who sat in the back row and aced all the tests.”
DON’T wait until the last minute to build up a great rapport with a teacher.
tart early, and stay in touch with teachers from last semester. Offer to stay after class to discuss work, ask engaging questions in class, and make sure you put your best effort forward. Early.
DO make it easy on your teacher.
When you ask for the recommendation, also give them a “recommendation package” with your letters of intent, a note about what kind of program you are interested in applying to, and a list of any extracurricular activities you participate in. Also listing your grades in their class and a reminder of some of your great work such as the titles of some of your papers, or your favorite books or projects in their class could be a great way to help them write you a glowing, personal recommendation.
DON’T forget to follow procedure.
If the teacher needs to submit the recommendation online, make sure they have the correct URL, and login information. If it needs to be mailed to the school, an addressed, stamped envelope should be included with the request. If it needs to be on a specific form, or in a specific format, or has a question that needs to be answered – be sure your teacher has that information easily accessible.
DO remember to say thank you.
A hand-written note of appreciation is the most appropriate way to say thanks. And be sure to let them know when you hear back from your schools!