Ah, the good ‘ole recommendation letter, the letter where you get someone who likes you to write nice things about you to a college. It may seem like a daunting task to ask someone to recommend you for college, but don’t worry! You’re awesome. Now, you can’t just walk down the school hallways and ask any teacher at random to write one for you. Picking who writes a letter requires thought and the correct approach.
- Ask someone who knows you well
When thinking whom to ask, think about teachers, coaches, or supervisors who are familiar with your work and achievements. These are the people who know you best and have seen you in a range of environments. Do not ask anyone who is related to you. Also, do not ask someone based on his or her title or reputation. Yes, their name may hold some weight at certain institutions, but if they do not know you on a personal level, the letter will not be as strong as someone who does know you.
- Ask early
Please, for the love of everyone’s sanity, do not wait until last minute! It is so important that your recommendation letters are strong and well thought out. This obviously requires time. Keep in mind, the person you asked most likely has agreed to write a letter for other students as well. Ask the writer a couple months before the deadline. As the deadline approaches, feel free to send friendly reminders.
- Provide the necessary materials
Read the fine print about what type of recommendation letter is expected. Some schools ask for a statement, while others ask for a series of short questions. Make sure you understand the requirements, as well as pass that information along to the writer. Also, give the writer a list of all the schools you are applying to. Sometimes the writer will like to personalize the letter to the school. Provide the writer with stamped envelopes. They are doing you a solid – don’t make them pay for postage! Finally, consider giving them a USB flash drive. Letters can get lost in the mail, so having the letter in an electronic version can seriously save the day.
- Waive your right to read the letter
According to federal law, you have access to your recommendation letters. However, some applications will include an additional form where you can waive your right to read the letter. Generally, people are advised to do so. Waiving your right shows the reader that the letter is completely candid and honest. If you are nervous the writer will include negative information, that’s a good sign to not ask them to write it in the first place.
- Follow up
The person you asked a letter from wants to know the outcome of the application. Keep them updated. Also, send them a thank you note or small gift of appreciation. Without them, there’s a good chance a college wouldn’t have even looked at your application!