What are the different types of recommendations?
There are typically three categories of recommendations.
Counselor Recommendation – The Counselor Recommendation’s purpose is to provide an overview of a student’s academic achievement, personal character, and background information that might be important for a college to know. It’s generally an overview of the student.
Teacher Recommendation – This recommendation is from a teacher, typically from the student’s junior year, who comments on the student’s academic performance, strengths, and experiences in the classroom. (Most often in one of the 4 core subject area: English math, science or history – if possible)
Other Recommendation – This is an opportunity for someone within the student’s community, usually a coach, employer, or religious leader, to recommend the student based on their experiences specific to the activity. Each school will have parameters around who they accept in this category.
How are letters of Recommendations used in the application process?
Recommendations help magnify the understanding of the student in a classroom or the quality of their character for the college. They also provide additional context to a student’s application materials, such as transcripts and an activities list.
Which teacher should I ask?
Many students are drawn to ask their favorite teachers to write LORs for them. Sometimes this works just fine. However, sometimes there might be a teacher who has a story to tell about you that might be more impactful. When we discuss who should be recommenders I encourage students to think about what each of their teachers would say about who they are as a student.
For each junior year core (math, science, english, social science) teacher, write down what they would say about you. Were you persistent in understanding material? Did your writing improve? Did you contribute in discussions? Did you stay after class for help? Ideally, you want to select two teachers that have different comments about you.
How many teachers should I ask?
Each school requires/recommends a different number of recommendations. In general, I recommend asking your counselor and 2 teachers. All colleges will have updated Letter of Recommendation requirements on their application and website in late summer.
When should I ask?
We recommend asking your teachers within the first two weeks of your senior year, however, it’s certainly acceptable to ask your teachers in the late spring of your junior year. Some teachers write their LORs over the summer.
How should I ask my teachers?
It’s best to ask for a positive letter of recommendation in person. I think it’s helpful if you follow up the in-person ask with an email thanking the teacher for writing a recommendation for you and state in the email why you asked them. Example: “Thank you for writing a positive letter of recommendation. I asked you because I felt like I showed a lot of persistence in understanding the material in April when I came in before school to get extra help.” OR “ Thank you for writing a recommendation for me. I wanted to ask you because I felt like I put a lot of effort into the group project” Your teachers might appreciate a reminder of your contributions when it comes time for them to write the letter.
In the Fall of your senior year:
Each high school has a different process for requesting LORs. You may have to meet with your school counselor, request the LOR through Naviance, and even fill out a questionnaire. All of these pieces fall into place usually during the first few weeks of school as counselors disseminate senior information.
If you have not gotten information from your guidance counseling office in September, email your counselor and ask for the requirements. You may want to complete the tasks earlier than many of your fellow classmates and being early to ask your teachers gives them more time and you are first on their lists. Always remember to give your teachers a deadline for when you are asking them to complete the recommendation. We all need deadlines and then it doesn’t get lost in their pile. Also give them at least two weeks to complete.