Getting A Top Recommendation Letter

When it comes to getting those much needed references and recommendation letters for the college of your dreams, it isn’t as easy as one might think.  For many students, the mere thought of asking someone else to write about them is over-the-top, while for others it’s tough determining those who would best fit-the-bill.

So, in the spirit of taking the steps toward getting that glowing recommendation letter, let’s discuss some simple steps to take that will take the sting out of who and how.  Since college admissions offices place a great deal of weight on these letters, mastering the art of asking is ever important.

Here are some recommendations:

Be Aware of Your School’s Procedures

Knowing exactly how your school handles your request for a recommendation letter and what to expect once it is written will take a great deal of mystery out of the process.  Should you ask the teacher directly or is there a form to complete in the guidance office?  Will a copy of the recommendation letter be placed in my academic file?  Will the teacher send it to the college or will the guidance office?  Other than who writes it, who else will read the recommendation letter?

Know Who You Might Ask

Take the time to make a list of those teachers you would like to participate in your college journey by writing a recommendation letter for you.  These teachers should know you differently, in a variety of environments in the context of school.  They should be able to speak of your character, academic responsibility, ethic and habits.  They may even be able to share insights into untapped leadership skills or compassion for others.

Be Sure To Ask Politely, In Person

One of the absolute keys to obtaining a glossy recommendation is the approach you take in asking.  Never should you email or phone a request, nor should you nonchalantly ask in passing.  Take the time to respectfully request by setting up a meeting.  During that meeting, which does not have to take a long time, it will be a great opportunity to briefly share a little about your goals and plans for your college journey.  Be sure to let them know why they are an important part of your journey.

Give Them Plenty of Time

Remember, nothing great happens overnight, so don’t expect your teacher to write your recommendation letter overnight!  Give them plenty of time to consider and write a well-thought letter to reflect the best of you!   It may be a great idea to give them at least a month lead time before they are actually required.  Giving them enough time will reflect your maturity and courtesy.

Equip Them

It certainly isn’t required, but it may be an excellent idea to further prepare your teachers in the details of who you are and what you enjoy.  It’s as simple as preparing a simple folder to include a resume of your academic courses, extra-curricular activities (both in and out of school) and be certain it includes your address and contact information.

Waive Your Right

Admissions personnel prefer to read letters of recommendation that have remained confidential.  This provides a more authentic and honest reference and one that is not obstructed by the influence of other’s opinion.  This pure reflection speaks volumes and can be obtained by making certain they are not sent to the admissions office from your hands.  Therefore, provide the information to your selected and trusted teachers necessary to submit them upon completion.

Say Thank You

A simple “thank you” goes a very long way!  After all, the teachers are taking their time to write about you, so you need to take the time to write to them.  Be sure to write a simple thank you card in your own handwriting and place a stamp on the envelop and place it in the mailbox — don’t forget to put the flag up!  Do not send a thank you email — that is super tacky!

When it all boils down, it’s important to be organized in this process.  So, take the time to do that from the beginning and it will make things so much easier.  Follow these steps along the way and it will put in place the steps needed to get that detailed letter needed to stand out in the admissions office.

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