Recommendation Letters: What You Need to Know

Are you finishing up your junior year and thinking about your senior year? There are a few things to do before you get out for the summer. You have probably heard that some colleges require a note from a teacher as part of their application. These are called recommendation letters, and the CAA coaches encourage all of our high school juniors to consider asking their teachers to write one over the summer.   How many do I need? Many colleges want at least one recommendation letter, but some may ask for more. Once you have your Final List of colleges, College Admissions Assistance recommends you review the details of their application requirements. Some colleges have a specific recommendation form, which can usually be found on the college’s website. Be aware that the Common Application, which is used by several colleges, has its own method for submitting recommendations.   Who should I ask? It’s a good idea to request two recommendations from teachers and one from someone who knows you outside of class, like an employer, athletic coach, or volunteer coordinator at a place you have done community service. Select at least one teacher from a core subject, if possible, and make sure to choose recommenders who have a good opinion of you and your work.   How do I ask them? Don’t worry that you’re bothering them. Just ask! It’s something they expect from their students, and most teachers are happy to help out their students in this process. You can talk to them after class or just write a simple letter telling them why you want them to write a recommendation for you.   How will they know what to write? Your teacher may need help with some of the details. They may know you from class but not know your outside activities. Provide them with a resume of your activities and accomplishments and make sure they know the colleges you are considering and your future career goals. It may also be helpful if they have a copy of your transcript. That way they can see your academic work in other classes.   Anything else I should know? After you ask your teachers to help you in this matter, be sure to send them a thank you note. A thank you can go a long way in showing you are a thoughtful student and appreciative of their help.   Recommendation letters can be an important part of your application. Much like the admissions essay, they give a fuller picture of who you are beyond your GPA, test scores, and list of activities. In some cases they can even determine whether you’re accepted or rejected at a particular college. In the end, it is your responsibility to make sure that each letter arrives at your college. Once you get back to school in the fall, you may want to check up again with those teachers. For now, be sure to make the most of your time as a junior and prepare for next year!