As you start to put your applications together, there is one piece that is vital to complete your application: your letters of recommendation. These will come from two sources: your teachers, and your guidance counselor. While you will only have one counselor recommendation, depending on the schools you are applying to, you may have as many as three teacher recommendations.
Recommendations are a sometimes undervalued piece of your application. Do not throw these together at the last minute. Have a plan going in. Your grades and test scores are a good indicator for your academic abilities, but much like your personal statement essays, your recommendations will bring to light who you are as a person and community member. These letters help colleges to understand who you are, and what you’ll add to their campus (besides your smarts, of course).
To help you gather these recommendations, we’ve put together a few tips:
Ask now – Your teachers are likely to get several students asking for recommendations, and it never hurts to ask as early in the year as possible. By now, you should have a list of schools and application deadlines, so be sure to include your earliest deadline when you ask your teachers.
Ask nicely – Never assume a teacher will write a recommendation for you. In general, writing student recommendations is not a requirement for them, and they’re taking time out of their own busy schedules to help you get into college.
Ask teachers who know you well, and taught you in your junior or senior year – Were you an assistant in their class? Did you work on a special assignment with them? These generally make the best recommendations, but colleges do want to see letters from teachers you had more recently, rather than your 9th grade Spanish teacher.
Get to know your guidance counselor – If you haven’t taken the time to get to know your counselor, now is the time. Their letter of recommendation will go over your extracurricular activities, your overall academic record, and also who you are as a person within your school community. If your counselor knows you well, it will shine through in their letter.
Say thank you – Letters of recommendation are a lot of work! Teachers and counselors work very hard to make sure these letters present you in the best light. While recommendations are generally part of your counselor’s job, teachers are taking time out of their busy schedules to help you achieve your goals. Make sure to thank both teachers and counselors with a thank you note after your applications are submitted.
We hope these tips will be helpful – you’re almost through to the finish line! As always, if we can help, let us know.