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Recommendations for Recommendations

Many colleges will require two or three recommendations from high school teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, or others who know you in an academic, extracurricular, or leadership capacity. Admissions officers rely on letters of recommendation to round out and confirm their picture of you as a candidate.

  • Choose Carefully: Cultivate good relationships with your guidance counselor, teachers, coaches, employers, and others who can recommend you highly.

  • Ask Early: Approach potential letter-writers at least 5 to 8 weeks before the recommendation due date, ideally four to six weeks before the end of 11th grade. Explain your college goals and ask if the person would be willing to write a positive recommendation for you. Many teachers and guidance counselors receive numerous requests, so ask early and give them plenty of time.  If the person agrees, plan to send a follow-up email thanking them in advance and letting them know that you’ll be following up with a resume and some information that may be helpful.

  • Brief Your Recommenders: Help those writing your recommendations by giving them a copy of your resume along with some “writing points.” These materials will help them compose a thoughtful and comprehensive evaluation.

  • Track the Deadlines: Be sure to follow up. Teachers and counselors are extremely busy, especially toward the end of the fall semester.

  • Read Instructions:  Some schools have specific requirements such as a teacher who taught you in a particular type of class such as STEM, humanities, 11th grade, core academic.
  • Thank You: Be sure to send a personalized thank you note and perhaps a small token of appreciation such as a Starbucks gift card.
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