Learn Art of Asking for Best Recommendation Letter

How to get best Recommendation Letter

Methods to go about acquiring college recommendation letters.

Many students who work hard and have excellent high school GPA and SAT/ACT scores, as well as an outstanding extracurricular profile, don’t manage to break through and get accepted at the college they aspired to go to.

Yes, such a thing can happen and the culprit is usually uninspiring college essays and unexceptional recommendation letters.

The task of your college essays and recommendation letters is to give a graphic sketch or summary of who you are. All college admission staff read these documents, hoping to get an idea of how you relate with your teachers and classmates. So when these documents fail to paint your picture well, your undergraduate admissions application will get junked because they can’t figure out what kind of person you are.

So considering how important recommendation letters are in your application, you should go about doing all that’s needed to get the best possible recommendation letters.

Listed below are the methods you should follow to get the letters and thereafter an acceptance letter from your favourite college.

Do everything by the book

Before asking for recommendation letters, first, peruse the college application manual.

The requirements of colleges may differ. If the college you are applying to requests for a recommendation letter from your high school teacher, then you should do just that. Or if the request is for two recommendation letters from your high school teachers and a third recommendation letter from anyone of your choice, include the two recommendation letters from your teachers and utilize the third recommendation letter as an opportunity to demonstrate your extracurricular activity.

Request a recommendation letter from your activity mentor, internship employer, or anyone who will vouch for your enterprise, perseverance, and hard work.

Simply follow the application instructions and leave no room for error.

Don’t select a renowned person – unless he knows you well

When you are selecting people for recommendation letters, choose only those who know you well.

The recommendation letters are about you and not about who is giving it. So it is not of great relevance if one of your teachers is renowned or an alumnus of the college you are applying to. If the teacher doesn’t know you well, the recommendation letter will not be solid and convincing. If he simply recognizes you by face and which class you are studying in, the recommendation letter will be non-specific and fail to make an impact.

Therefore, carefully select your recommendation letter writers. Be sure that they know you well – not just by your grades. They should be able to write about your character, abilities, and any such relevant information about you that college admission staff won’t find in your application documents.

Be creative in your thinking

When you are given the option of choosing your recommendation letter writers, instead of being unsure of what to do, this is when you should become innovative.

If you have spent some time as an intern or at a part-time job and you worked closely with your mentor or employer, then it will be good to ask them for a recommendation letter as they will be able to write eloquently and persuasively about you. Since their interactions will be beyond the academic realm, they will possibly draw attention to other dimensions of your personality that your high school teacher has no access to.

If the college application manual doesn’t set the pre-condition that only teachers can be your recommendation letter writers, you can ask for a recommendation letter from anybody who can vouch for your credentials as a student.

Let the past be just that

Your high school teacher recommendation letter writers should ideally be from your current academic year or maybe from a year earlier. However, if you are still cordial with teachers from your earlier years, you can request them too.

For instance, you must ask for a recommendation letter from the teacher who taught you in early high school and has thereafter guided you, as he will be able to write an expressive and powerful letter about you.

And it’s best to move on from a teacher who was your teacher for just one year and nothing more. Such a teacher’s recommendation letter will be casual and weak.

Get the timing right

Since you will begin preparing for the college application process many months in advance, you will be aware of when you should have the recommendation letters ready. Generally, it’s best to request recommendation letters two months before your undergraduate admissions application deadline.

If you have already identified the teachers you will be requesting for a recommendation letter, it’s best that you sound them about it at the earliest to give them ample time to put it together.

Since there will be many other students sending out undergraduate admission applications, your teachers will most probably be flooded with similar requests from those students too. So if you are the early bird, your teacher will probably have the time and the bandwidth to write a persuasive and effective letter for you.

Ask for a recommendation letter - but how?

Nothing can match a request made in person. Make time to meet and request for a recommendation letter – you may choose to email about it in advance before meeting the person, but always meet your possible recommender. Simply sending an email request will convey that it is not such a high priority for you.

Now here are some example emails making requests.

For making a personal request:

Dear __ (Teachers’ name),

I hope you are doing well?

I will be pursuing undergraduate studies next year and will begin the application process soon. I am hoping that you will be able to give me guidance and tips on how I should go about it.

If you can spare some time for me, do let me know when it will be convenient for you to see me and I’ll positively adjust my schedule to meet you.

Thanks so much for your time and benevolence.

Best regards,

(Your name)

If the person is unavailable to meet you in person, the content for your email can be:

Dear __ (Teachers’ name),

I hope you are doing well?

I will be pursuing undergraduate studies next year and will begin the application process soon and am hoping that you will be able to write a persuasive recommendation letter for me. (Include a genuine reason why a letter from this person means a lot to you – e.g., why you have immense regard for his outlook).

If you will write the letter for me, I can share the following documents with you to ease your task:

  1. My grades and test scores
  2. My resume
  3. The outline of my personal statement
  4. Guidelines for recommendation letters given by the college

Thanks so much for your time and benevolence.

Best regards,

(Your name)

Request for a powerful recommendation letter

When you request for a recommendation letter, you shouldn’t beat around the bush. At the onset ask the letter writer if he/she will be at ease to write a powerful recommendation letter for you. Even if there is the slightest irresoluteness, you should thank the person for his time and leave. Connect with the next person in your list of possible recommendation letter writers and move forward.

It is in your interest to settle for someone who will willingly write a persuasive recommendation letter and enhance your chances of being accepted at your dream college.

Before asking someone for a recommendation letter, even if you have the slightest feeling that they will not put down a powerful recommendation letter for you, you shouldn’t even walk the distance to ask them for it.

The letter is about you and your future – it’s not a reflection of the writer.

Give your letter writer the necessary information

For your own sake, you should share as much information as possible about yourself with your recommendation letter writer. You could share the college application material and a list of your achievements to ensure he doesn’t miss out on anything. Although your teacher may brush aside your offer, it is best that you provide him with the following documents:

  • The list of your grades in high school
  • The final outline of your personal statement
  • Your resume
  • Guidelines for recommendation letters given by the college  

Relinquish the right to see the recommendation letter

By now you would have figured out the significance of your recommendation letters. Besides, you must have made up your mind of whom to approach for your recommendation letters and how to go about it.

But, the biggest question nagging you will be if you should relinquish the right to see your recommendation letter. Your worry is valid since you will be sending an unread recommendation letter to perhaps your dream college. This is the only component of your college application that you cannot lay your eyes on.

If the college application guidelines mention relinquishing the right to see your recommendation letters, it’s best to abide by it. The general belief among college admission staff is that a teacher writing your recommendation letter will not share the whole story if he knows that you will have access to it.

Ensuring that you meet your timelines

Even though you may have asked your teacher for the recommendation letter well in advance, chances are that he hasn’t reverted more than four weeks after you made the request. Your dilemma is how to remind the teacher without offending him – after all he’s just helping you out.

But you know what? Your teacher will not mind being reminded – in fact, with the number of students asking them for recommendation letters, he’ll be glad to be reminded.

So to play safe, you should gently remind him a month before the application deadline. Do so by thanking him for the effort and check if the letter has been dispatched.

Your reminder email content can be:

Dear __ (Teachers’ name),

I hope you are doing well?

I propose to submit my undergraduate admissions application (mention date or # of weeks/days) and wish to remind you about your recommendation letter.

I hope the information I shared with you has been of help? Do you need any further inputs from me?

Thanks so much for your help.

Best regards,

(Your name)  

Show appreciation to your recommender

In all the excitement when you begin to receive acceptance letters from colleges, and the flurry of activity in choosing a college, remember to update and thank your recommenders of which colleges have responded positively and where you plan to study.

It’s best that you make time to meet them personally to thank and update them. But a hand-written note will only accentuate your thankfulness.

The content of your thank you note can be:

Dear __ (Teachers’ name),

I wish to thank you for helping me with my college applications and guiding me of how best to go about it. And thank you so much for sending a letter of recommendation.

I have been accepted by (college name) and intend to attend in the Fall.

I consider myself lucky that you are my mentor. Thanks so much for being there for me.

Best regards,  

(Your name)