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About this blog: We are writing this blog to give practical advice to students and parents, to reflect on issues affecting college admissions, and to provide a platform for a robust community discussion on post-secondary choices. We occasionally f...  (More)

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When Is The Perfect Time To Ask For A College Recommendation Letter?

Uploaded: Feb 1, 2017
(Written by guest blogger, Michael Romano of MR Test Prep www.mrtestprep.com)

A college recommendation letter can help earn you admittance into the college you have been dreaming about. Don’t let this one important task slip through the cracks. Recommendation letters can be challenging because they require dependence on the person writing the letter. Make the process easier on you and your letter writer by asking in the best possible way.

Ask Early
Keep in mind that if the person writing your letter is a teacher, counselor, or someone else affiliated with the school, they are likely to be asked to write letters for multiple students. The more time you offer them, the more likely they are to spend quality time on your letter. USNews suggests asking five or six weeks before the letter is due.

The Initial Ask
To start, ask in person, if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation. If it is someone you don’t see very often, it is ok to write an email or call.Try to find a person that can attest to your interest and commitments to the fields of your interest. For example, if you want to pursue a science degree, try to choose a science teacher, or if you want to show community involvement ask a volunteer coordinator. Don’t ask a friend or family member that has no other connection with you. You need to display your strengths in an unbiased manner.

Formal Letter
Once they have agreed to write the letter, send them a formal letter that includes all of the necessary details. If the recommendation should be submitted online, it is appropriate to send the information via email. Be sure to include all of the necessary links and clearly state the deadline. When the letter must be mailed, give your letter writer instructions and include an addressed and stamped envelope so that the letter can be sent easily.

It is ok to send the writer a reminder email that is worded gently and gratefully. Send this reminder at least a week before the due date. Waiting until the day before the letter is due won’t be helpful.

Plan B
You may also want to plan several options. No one is obligated to write the letter. A teacher may be too busy to write something thoughtful and helpful. Don’t be offended if someone says no, simply ask the next appropriate person as soon as possible.

Stay Proactive
The process of recommendation letters may feel awkward, but they are an important part of your application process. Be proactive, even if it feels uncomfortable to ask. Remember the people in your life want to see you succeed.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?


 +   4 people like this
Posted by retired guy who follows the schools, a resident of Barron Park,
on Feb 3, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Good advice, but hard to take advantage of now that Gunn's principal has slashed the pay teachers used to get for spending the long extra hours to write in-depth, detailed, persuasive letters of rec.
Penny wise, pound foolish when it comes to doing right by our kids, who so badly want to get into the colleges they want.

 +   9 people like this
Posted by a little positivity, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Feb 4, 2017 at 6:04 pm

You left out the final two steps to this important process.

-- THANK your letter writers
-- When all is done inform them of how your application journey turned out. If they were a small part of helping you succeed, they will want to know what your future plans end up being.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Feb 5, 2017 at 12:01 am

Senoir moment. Can't remember letters of recommendation on college apps back in '72. Were they expected back then? I do remember the obligatory college essay. And I do remember letters for grad-school apps later on. I suppose there were Mr TestPreps in those days (Kaplan for sure), but didn't personally know any students admitting to anything more than doing a few practice SATs. I recall the uncertainty of senior year, but no critical stress (no pressure from family). Foothill was always there as a fallback plan. Seems the common priority was getting into a good party-school, however that may have been just the socially acceptable response. Or maybe I just didn't know any hardcore students very well. Honestly can't say how I'd approach the future as a high school student today. Keep moving forward, and good luck to all.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Chip, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Feb 6, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Yes!! adamant second to comments by 'a little positivity'

<<You left out the final two steps to this important process.

-- THANK your letter writers
-- When all is done inform them of how your application journey turned out. If they were a small part of helping you succeed, they will want to know what your future plans end up being.>>

Teachers don't "owe" letters. They are time-consuming and outside the normal area of responsibility. One Paly teacher I know is regularly asked for 30+ letters every year.

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