How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for College (and Get It)
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How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for Students

Entering a job or applying for a college is quite a challenging mission, which requires lots of various skills. You need to know how to write the application, what to include, and how to structure everything properly. However, not all of the applicants know that the letter of recommendation is an important part of an application.

They think that it is impossible to get, feel ashamed of asking others or simply don’t want to waste their time although every hiring manager or admission board will highly appreciate if you include this letter to your application form. With its help, you will greatly increase your chances of being accepted and will surely stand out from other candidates.

What is the letter of recommendation?

Recommendation or a reference letter is a paper, which aims to give additional merit and value to an application. Such letters are usually completed by colleagues, teachers, supervisors or friends.

There are several types of such letters, including those for college applications, employment and referencing a character. A regular recommendation letter should include the following elements:

  • Title and contact information of the author (address, city and so on);
  • Date, address of the company and its title;
  • Body paragraphs, where the person provides a positive picture of the candidate, his or her experience and relevance for the chosen program or company;
  • Signature and name.

If you are a high school graduate, it may be difficult to select a person who will find pleasure to recommend you. However, you can always turn to your teachers for help. Admission boards or hiring managers pay careful attention to such letters, and they can be a reason in your favor when there are two candidates with similar backgrounds.  The applicant with a reference letter will always have a solid advantage.

When to ask for a letter of recommendation

The first step to writing a letter of recommendation includes timing. Even though teachers or counselors have relatively calm seasons, every letter takes much time and energy. That is why it is better to ask for a reference email for at least one month before the deadline. In particular cases, earlier is even better.

Some teachers limit the number of references they can take. That is why if the tutor is popular or has already mentioned other requests, it is better to ask for a letter even earlier. Most of the teachers get really busy by the end of the term, preparing exams and tests or evaluating multiple works, not mentioning the time they are willing to spend with their families.

Feel free to ask your junior year teachers for a reference, because they had you for a full year (unlike senior teachers) and have a more relaxed schedule.  Moreover, if you have early deadlines or already know where you are going to apply to, it is a nice idea to ask them for a reference at the end of your junior year. In such a way, they will remember you and will have enough time (whole summer) to write your letter.

How to choose the right teachers for a letter of recommendation?

Choosing a right candidacy for writing your recommendation letter may be quite a challenge, because in a perfect world this person knows you good enough and likes you, remembers you as a student and teaches one of the core subjects (English, science, math or social studies). By the way, some universities require recommendations from teachers of particular subject areas. Make sure you check those requirements in advance.

If you can’t find one teacher that fits all of the above criteria, here are the elements you need to prioritize:

  • A person who knows you good enough and likes you;
  • A person who has taught you not so long ago;
  • A person who teaches core subjects.

If the teacher doesn’t know the student, how can the college learn about him?

What if I need several teachers?

It is better to pick teachers, who can concentrate on separate features of your character. For example, your English teacher may know the things your music teacher doesn’t know. However, you need to be familiar with the requirements of the board in advance: if they need a general picture of your achievements, it is better to choose a core subject teacher.

However, if you are applying to an art or music school, you can ask your art or music teacher for writing a recommendation.

What if I am not familiar with my teachers?

The best advice we can give is to build a relationship with your tutors before you actually need something from them. Yes, you can download a letter of recommendation template, but it won’t replace real feedback from a person who values and appreciates you. Moreover, it can be considered fraud if the board will want to contact the referrer.

However, if you find yourself not knowing any teacher, don’t fall into despair! Come to the teacher’s office and ask various questions about work, class, and life. Get to know him, asking about the time working as a teacher. You can also download a sample of a reference letter, fill it in and hand it to your tutor. It will be much easier and quicker for him to complete your recommendation based on an existing one.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation for college: 7 tips

When you want to enter a university or get a dream position with a company, it is necessary to impress the board not only with your application but also with a great recommendation. If you don’t know how to get started, below are the tips on how to actually ask for it! Follow these tips by WriteAnyPapers:

  1. Really, ask. Some students just add teachers’ names to the list of possible referrers without actually asking them. This doesn’t sound professional at all, and your tutor may say no on principle. Don’t be the person, who says that he’s going to the prom with the most beautiful girl in class and she doesn’t even know about it.
  2. Ask beforehand. We mean not in a week or two but at the end of the junior year if it is possible. Even if you the deadline is approaching it is necessary to give your teacher at least a month not to be in a hurry. Stanford admission dean recommends at least 90 days: the more time your teacher has, the more he will be willing to help and to make the letter flawless.
  3. Ask your teacher in person. It is better to contact your tutor in person, not just sending out electronic emails. Even if you have moved to another place or even a city, you can choose a phone call, making an email your last option. Never send text messages!
  4. Keep it confidential. Leave this conversation until you are one-on-one, not in front of the whole class. Don’t make your teacher uncomfortable and talk to him only when no one is listening. You can try to make your teacher stay with you one-on-one by asking for help with assignment writing, for example.
  5. Provide your tutor with an address. Give your tutor an addressed and stamped envelope if the admission board requires you to send the letter through a snail mail. We strongly recommend doing this in advance, because it is your responsibility and your teacher doesn’t have to spend time contacting the college and getting familiar with requirements.
  6. Respect your teachers’ approach and follow it. For example, some tutors have a questionnaire for students who ask for a recommendation. If they ask you to fill it out at once, just do it. Follow these requirements and respect the time your tutors spend on you.
  7. Be ready to return the favor. The more you give your teacher, the more you must be ready to give in return. Good and thoughtful letters of recommendation may take hours or even days to write. Considering that teachers don’t have to complete those letters, you should remember that they are doing you a favor! They are not paid for it and write it only out of kindness, even though they have a tight schedule. That is why you need at least to write a thank you note and tell how you appreciate tutor’s help.

Compose a follow-up letter, if needed

Every teacher is busy, so once in a while, you may need to remind them that there is only a month left before the letter must be submitted. However, you need to be very gentle and not to sound too pushy.

Write something like “Hello, Mr. X. I wanted to check whether you need any additional materials to submit the reference letter on March 19th”. Your teacher will surely appreciate such a reminder.

When they finish your letter, don’t forget to write a thank you note. It is better to write it on paper, not a printed one. Don’t forget to tell how you appreciate the time they took to recommend you and how it helped.

Asking for a reference is not difficult at all. Actually, it is the simplest part of an application, because you don’t need to do anything!

Final tips

It is equally important to know not only what a reference letter is but also how to ask for a letter of recommendation. Here are the main tips:

  • Deny your right to reading the letter. This will give your application more value.
  • Place every reference letter in a stamped and addressed envelope.
  • Make sure that there is a certain length of time for submission.
  • Send your references at least a week before the final deadline to make sure that it will arrive on time.
  • Once you have chosen a college, don’t forget to write a letter of appreciation to the people, who referenced you.
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