The college application process can be a challenging journey. Staying on top of college admissions tasks, though, can help ease the anxieties surrounding college admissions. One way to get ahead is to secure high-quality letters of recommendation from teachers and other adults who can attest to your academic and personal accomplishments. First, it’s important to research all application deadlines so that you can be sure to give the individuals you’ll be asking enough time to complete their letters. Next, find out how many letters you’ll need, and plan accordingly.
If you’re ready to get a head start on your college application, securing letters of recommendation is a great way to begin. Keep reading to learn four ways to get a great letter of recommendation.
1. Develop positive relationships with your teachers
Before asking for a letter of recommendation, it’s important to establish a positive relationship with your teacher. It’s beneficial for your teacher to know the level of effort you dedicate to your academics so that they can appropriately acknowledge it in your letter. Aim to always participate in discussions and remain active in the classroom. In addition, don’t be afraid to visit your teacher after class to ask any questions you have regarding coursework or exam prep. Fostering a positive relationship and open line of communication with your teacher will give them insight into the type of student and individual you are.
2. Carefully select which individuals you will ask to write letters
After you’ve identified how many letters of recommendation you’ll need, it's important to establish a list of potential individuals to compose those letters. While these are typically teachers, you can include other adults who play an important role in your academic life. If you have a job or internship that is relevant to your future career goals, your supervisor can write a letter on your behalf. It’s important to choose wisely when selecting who will write your letters, placing the focus on people who you know can speak highly of your academic and personal accomplishments.
3. Request your recommendation letters early
One of the most important things you can do during the process of seeking letters of recommendation is to reach out to prospective individuals early. Since you’re asking these people to set aside dedicated time to write your letter, it’s courteous to give them a fair amount of time to complete the task. Note when your letters are due, and plan to ask your teachers or supervisor for a letter several months in advance. Allotting plenty of time before the deadline also gives you enough time to ask an alternate adult if someone you selected declines.
4. Provide the individual with relevant information to compose your letter
It can be helpful to ask your teacher or supervisor if they would benefit from your resume or any other documentation to compose their letter. Providing your resume or personal statement can give them insights into your academic accomplishments and future goals that they may not have otherwise had. Additionally, give them any information they will need regarding what to do with the letter once they have completed it—whether that means they deliver it directly to you, to the guidance counselor’s office, or through an online submission portal.
It’s important to always follow up with thank you notes or emails to the individuals who provided you with recommendation letters. Remember that they likely spent a good amount of time thoughtfully composing your letter, so be accordingly gracious. In addition, it’s generally best to keep these letters confidential.
By establishing a plan to obtain high-quality letters of recommendation, you can begin to check items off of your college application to-do list and set yourself up for admissions success.
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