As the school year winds to a close, college applications might be the furthest thing from your mind. But if you’re finishing up your junior year, there’s one task you should check off your list before taking off (or logging off) for the summer: Ask for letters of recommendation. Most students will wait until the fall, so it’s a great idea to get ahead of the game by contacting your teachers before summer starts!
Students often ask about the best way to do this. “Who should I ask?” and “How should I ask?” are the most common questions that AcceptU counselors receive. While there isn’t one right answer to either of these, some basic guidelines will make this process much easier for you and your teachers.
Who should I ask? You typically need two teacher letters of recommendation for the college application process at most private universities. Before speaking with your teachers, ask yourself a few questions. What do you want to study? Who knows you best? Which classes did you do well in? The answers to these questions will help you decide which teachers to contact. Try to ask at least one teacher in a subject related to the academic area(s) that interest you most. Make sure the teachers you ask know you well, both as a student and a person. And, of course, it helps to pick teachers from classes in which you performed well! Ideally your teachers will have taught you in Grade 11, although if you had a teacher in Grade 10 whom you keep in touch with and have a great relationship with, that’s an option as well.
How should I ask? There isn’t really a set process for asking a teacher to write you a recommendation. If you can ask in person, great; if not, an email is fine. Make sure you tell your teachers how much you’ve enjoyed being their student, and maybe highlight a particular unit, idea or project that you found especially inspiring or beneficial. Then ask if they would be willing to write you a positive letter of recommendation. You will likely know if a teacher has a positive view of you or not, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure! It’s also a good idea to ask if they would like you to give them any information about yourself to help them write a letter for you. Some teachers may ask you what you’d like them to highlight in their letter, or they may want to know more about your academic interests or how you see yourself.
Finally, if your teachers say yes – which they likely will – always, always thank them. A little gratitude – such as a handwritten thank you card or even a box of chocolates – can go a long way!
Sarah received a BA from Davidson College and M.Div. from Vanderbilt University. Sarah has more than seven years of admissions and advising experience at several institutions, including Emory University, College of Charleston and Vanderbilt. Sarah also spent five years working in nonprofit program management and leads AcceptU’s partnerships with college access organizations. Sarah manages a caseload of clients as well as a team of AcceptU counselors. Sarah is an IECA Associate Member.