4 Tips to Ace Your Letters of Recommendation

May 31, 2016

Wait - there’s a part of your college applications where you don’t actually have to do anything? Not quite, but plenty of students hold off every year until it’s too late. Letters of recommendation might be the least stressful part of the entire college admissions process. So why is it one of the hardest aspects? Here are a few tips to make your college applications easier:

Don’t wait! Here’s one tip that, while it sounds obvious, most students ignore. Though it’s a good idea to take your time and really pick the right people to write your recommendations, it isn’t a good idea to wait. Not only do you risk asking too late in the process, your teacher also might not be taking requests or writing recommendations anymore. Remember: teachers are doing this to help you. It’s not their job, nor are they required to do so.

Some teachers prefer to write over the summer, while others prefer to wait until the school year. Try to ask up until the first weeks of your senior year, but don’t wait longer than that. Since they probably have a list of other students to write for, give them time so they don’t feel rushed.

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Understand the details. Simply put, you need to do your own research before you even bother asking for letters of recommendation. Know the schools that you’re applying to and their requirements. Not all schools require letters of recommendation, while some need one or two. Giving your teachers enough time to write out and put thought into your recommendation is good, so give your teachers the application deadlines and pre-addressed/stamped envelopes so they know when and where to send them.

Know who you’re asking. Not all teachers are the same, and not all teachers know you and your strengths. Keep in mind that colleges are looking for a current profile of you, so your favorite middle school teacher shouldn’t be your top choice. A teacher from your favorite subject, an advisor or counselor, or a coach is always a good pick, as they can discuss your enthusiasm and your best qualities.

However, not all teachers will say yes, and that’s okay. Make sure your recommender is happy and willing to write your letter. If not, it’ll show. Give your recommenders reason as to why you’re asking them, and you’ll likely give them a better understanding of who you are.

Follow up and thank you. Your teachers, advisors, and coaches have a lot going on. It’s easy to forget and lose track of time, so don’t forget to politely follow up and see if they need anything from you. After all, they’re doing you a huge favor in the first place, so be as helpful as you can.

Once they do send your letter in, say thank you! Give them a gift, write them a card, and show your appreciation. They’re doing the hard work when it comes to letters of recommendation, so make sure they know you’re thankful.

About The Author

Drew Evans
Drew Evans

​Drew is a content and social media guru. When he’s not working, he loves to photograph, play music, play sports, and travel. He is also weirdly obsessed with Thai food, Girl Scout cookies, and learning new languages (even though he’s not fluent in any). For any editorial ideas, contact info@admitsee.com.




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Harvard ‘19


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