By Amelia Lenz
As college application deadlines draw near, recommendation letters are on many high school seniors’ minds. But how do you ask for a letter of recommendation?
First things first, ask as early as possible. Teachers often have a lot of students asking for letters of recommendation at the same time, and asking well in advance gives them plenty of time to work on your letter of recommendation. In addition, it shows them that you are proactive and on top of the college application process, and it shows that you are considerate of your teacher’s time. Asking as soon as possible is the best first step when acquiring recommendation letters. A good time to ask may be the end of your junior year.
It’s best to ask for a letter of recommendation in two parts: a verbal request and a written request (usually an email).
The verbal request is more informal, and the focus should be simply asking for the letter. Just as you would when asking for anything else, be polite and respectful. Remember that your teacher is doing you a favor, and thank them. After you ask them in person, follow up with a written request. Thank them again and remind them of what you want them to remember when writing your letter of recommendation. Consider attaching your resume or your portfolio. Be sure to mention when you had them as a teacher, what class they taught, and where you are applying.
It’s best to have both a written and verbal request, but for some students, this may not be an option. If you can only ask through a written request, it is still a good idea to break up the request into two parts. The first email (or letter) should be where you ask for the letter of recommendation, attach your brag sheet or resume, and mention your future plans. When they accept, send a second email that thanks them, reminds them of the things they love about you, and reiterates anything you want them to remember when they write your recommendation.
Once you have asked your teachers, remember to follow up before the deadline – especially if you asked well in advance. Remember that teachers are people too, and they have a lot of students. The five minutes it takes to send an email following up can make a huge difference and demonstrates responsibility to your recommender. That being said, your follow-up should always be polite and inquiring – not demanding.
Even after the recommendation is submitted, you aren’t finished. When you see that your recommendation is submitted, send a thank you note. Take the time to update your recommender on the admissions process. A thank-you note is an excellent way to develop and maintain your relationship with your teacher, and it’s good manners. Check out this article on writing a thank you note for a letter of recommendation.
Asking for a letter of recommendation can seem daunting, but following the simple steps outlined above can make it a little less overwhelming. These steps can apply to applications outside of college applications as well. If you’re still nervous about asking for a letter of recommendation, try practicing with a friend, family member, or even a pet.
The most important thing to remember is to be polite and grateful, and as long as you have that down, you’re going to do great!