How to Get the References You Need
Most college applications request two or three recommendation letters from people who know you in and out of the classroom. It’s your responsibility to find appropriate people to write these letters on your behalf. You also need to give them enough time to write a thoughtful letter. Start by discussing the process, and possible candidates, with your counselor and family.
Whom Should I Ask?
Read the application carefully. Often colleges request letters of recommendation from an academic teacher (sometimes in a specific subject), your school counselor or both. If the college requests a letter from an academic teacher, and the subject is not specified, your English or math teachers usually make good candidates.
When Should I ask?
Also, if there is some aspect of your transcript that needs explaining — for example, low grades during sophomore year — it’s helpful to talk with your counselors to explain why and how you’ve changed and improved.
- Don’t be shy. Teachers and counselors are usually happy to help you, as long as you respect their time constraints.
- Supply your recommendation writers with addressed and stamped envelopes for each college to which you’re applying, if the letters are required to be submitted in the mail.
- Provide teachers and counselors with deadlines for each recommendation that you are requesting.
- On the application form, waive your right to view recommendation letters (This means that you agree that you will not see what your recommendation writers say). This gives more credibility to the recommendation in the eyes of the college.
- Probably you know your teachers well enough to know who can provide favorable reviews of your accomplishments. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask if they feel comfortable writing a recommendation. In some cases, you may have no choice about whom to ask, but when you do, make the best choice possible.
- Follow up with your recommendation writers a week or so prior to your first deadline, to ensure recommendations have been mailed, or to see if they need additional information from you.
- Once you’ve decided which college to attend, write thank-you notes to everyone who provided a recommendation and tell them where you’ve decided to go to college. Be sure to do this before you leave high school.