Colleges consider many factors when reviewing an applicant’s application file, most of which consist of numbers and figures. Letters of recommendation, however, can provide admission officers with information about you that is not provided anywhere else in your application. Because of this, letters of recommendation can be the determining factor in your admission decision.
Letters of recommendation can reveal a lot about the type of student you are in the classroom setting. Teachers have the opportunity to write about your academic strengths, skills, work ethic, and personal characteristics. They may also provide specific examples of your successes in their class and discuss how you contribute to the overall learning environment. This information gives college admission officers an idea of how well you would fit in as a student at their university.
Recommendation letters also provide insight into who you are as a person. How your recommender describes you can speak to your leadership potential, commitment to your school and community, and your ability to form healthy and constructive relationships with school staff and peers. A positive recommendation letter will allow you to stand out among your classmates and other applicants.
Since letters of recommendation are an important part of the application process, make sure you select recommenders who will be able to portray you in a favorable light. Give your recommenders plenty of time to write your letter of recommendation as well. A good rule of thumb is to give them at least four weeks. The earlier you ask, the better. You can even ask your teachers at the end of your junior year if they’ll write one for you over the summer leading into your senior year, so they have plenty of time to complete your request.
The absolute best way to ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation is face-to-face, in person. This ensures that your teacher actually receives your request and that you have the time to discuss the specifics of due dates, your college choices, etc. The best way to ask a teacher in person is to schedule an appointment with them or catch up with them during a free period so you have adequate time to discuss the request. Do not simply ask a teacher after class or in the hallway in passing
In addition, your recommenders should be school counselors or teachers you have had within the past two years, as colleges want the most accurate and up-to-date information about you. Last but not least, make sure you provide your recommender with any additional information they may not already know about you. This includes your college and career goals, extracurricular involvement, and honors/awards you have received.