Getting Recommendations

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Brought to you by the American School Counselor Association

Usually when you apply to a good college, they require you to get recommendations from two of your teachers. What they say about you can really impact whether or not the school admits you. Try these tips to help you get better recommendations:

Ask Early.

Teachers are busy people and writing recommendations takes them a lot of time. The worst thing you can do is ask for a recommendation right before it's due. Ask way in advance. Not only are your teachers more likely to say "yes," but they'll also see you as more responsible and are more likely to give you a favorable rec.

Make It Easy for Them.

When you ask teachers to write recommendations for you, give them everything they need, including any necessary forms, your application deadline and a stamped, addressed envelope.

Waive Your Rights.

You have the legal right to read the stuff that colleges have in their files about you. You can waive the right to be able to read your recommendations and you should. Why? Colleges won't pay attention to your recommendations if they think the people who wrote them were worried that you would be reading them. Sign the waiver before you give the forms to your teachers.

Pick Wisely.

Pick teachers who know and like you.

Pick teachers who will definitely write positive things about you. If you can, ask your teachers directly whether they will write you a strong recommendation. If that's too tough, give them an out by saying something like, "I don't want to put you on the spot if you'd prefer not to do this."

Pick relevant teachers. For example, if you plan to be an English major, at least one of your recommendations should be from an English teacher.

Pick teachers who are reliable. If a teacher doesn't get your recommendation in on time, you will be the one who looks bad.

Pick teachers who are good writers. A poorly written recommendation is not very impressive.

Send a Thank You Note

Thanking a recommender is good manners. It's also a polite way to remind a forgetful teacher to get on the stick. Send your note a week or two before the deadline.

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