The college admissions recommendation letter is the one part of your application that you seemingly have little control over. After all, the recommendation letter is written and submitted by a third part–usually your guidance counselor or teacher. However, this does not mean that there isn’t anything you can do to snag a stellar recommendation letter. In this post, we are going to give you 6 “recs” to get the best possible rec letter!
1) Pick teachers from your junior year
College admissions officers are really looking for rec letters that are more recent. This means that students should focus on teachers they had during junior year. Senior year can work too, but remember that you might not have enough time to get to know your teacher (this can be especially tricky if you intend to apply anywhere Early Decision or Early Action).
2) Focus on teachers that know you really well
One of the biggest mistakes that students make is only focusing on grades. Instead, think about the teachers who know you really well as a student. This is why it is so important to get to know your teachers inside and outside of class. A strong recommendation letter will not simply state that “John was an A student and did well on his tests.” Instead, it will describe the type of scholar, thinker, researcher, and classmate you are. If your teachers write “comments”about you at the end of the semester or marking period, this can give you a glimpse of how they might talk about you. Remember though, the purpose of comments on a report card are to talk about your strengths and weaknesses and a recommendation letter will be framed in a more supportive, positive way.
3) Align your recommendation letters to your areas of academic interest
When college admissions officers are reading recommendations, they are imagining you as a student on their campus. Ideally, your recommendations should support your intended academic interest, so if you are an intended English major, at least one of your recommendations should be from an English teacher. If you are an aspiring engineer, you should have a recommendation from a math or science teacher. Generally, you should be seeking recommendation letters from teachers in two separate academic disciplines.
4) Ask your teachers by the end of junior year
Some teachers like to write recommendation letters over the summer, so it is a nice courtesy to ask them to write a recommendation letter before the summer starts. The other upside to this is that you will secure your recommendations early. Some teachers will have a “cap” on the number of recommendations they will write, so this will guarantee that you can secure recommendations from your top teachers.
5) Offer to provide additional information
A really smart move for students is to offer to sit down with their teacher or guidance counselor for a conversation before they write the recommendation. Some teachers or guidance counselors may even ask you to complete a questionnaire or survey. Either way, it is important to be clear that you are available to give them additional information!
6) Don’t forget to thank your recommendations
Recommendations are time consuming, hard work! Be sure to send a thank you to your recommendation writers (bonus points for writing a hand-written thank you card).