5 Questions to Ask to Get Great College Recommendation Letters

5 Questions to Ask to For Great College Recommendation Letters for Your Application

Exploring, choosing, applying, visiting schools and getting to the college of your choice is a long, potentially overwhelming process. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Each step of the way, there are tips and tools that can make the journey easier, and give you more confidence as you progress. Which is why we’re talking about one small piece of your college application process that can carry big results: recommendation letters.

What are College Recommendation Letters?

College recommendation letters aren’t about you asking for advice on what school might be best for you. They’re all about an adult in your life letting your college of choice know what you bring to the table and why you’d be an exceptional student at their institution. These letters share more than your grades and test scores every could. They give the college a personal perspective about who you are and how you interact in the world. Even what your attitude is all about. And they show the college exactly who is willing to put their reputation on the line to stand with you.

When Do You Ask for a College Recommendation Letter?

If you’re a junior in Highschool, it’s definitely time to narrow down the people who would be the best choices for recommendation letters. Consider their schedules — you won’t want to ask a teacher during finals week, and you won’t want to ask a coach as they prep for state finals. If you choose to ask a boss, don’t ask as a big project launches or during inventory time. 

It’s important to know when each college must receive these letters so you can ensure the people you ask have ample time to compose a letter of recommendation. Most academics appreciate time over the summer to complete these letters of recommendations. If you’re unsure of the best time for their schedule, ask. And then followup with them.

Whom Do You Ask

You may need to ask a few different people for a recommendation, depending on the requirements of your colleges of choice. Some school want a teacher from a specific course of study. Others want a statement from a school counselor. Check your college application for specifics about the letters they’d like to receive.

It’s best to get a recommendation letter from someone who has interacted with you recently. A middle school teacher, while maybe one of your favorites, won’t have great insight into the person you’ve become in the years since you were a student in their classroom. Colleges are looking for a current perspective on you as a potential student at their school.

Consider asking someone outside your academic life for a letter of recommendation. Your employer will have a unique perspective on your character and strengths and may help round out any academic referral you include.

How Do You Ask for a College Recommendation Letter?

To get the very best response to your recommendation request, first ask them if they’d be willing to give one. Then make an appointment so you’ll have time to speak with them about it. Talk about your participation in class, what you’ve learned, projects you’ve loved, or challenges you’ve overcome. Talk about what you hope to pursue in college. The more specifically they can recommend you and help tell your story, the more impactful your recommendation letter will be. 

For each recommendation you request, provide an addressed, stamped envelope for each college you’ve chosen. Your letters will be well on their way to your colleges of choice, and your referrals will appreciate your thoughtfulness and efficiency. Don’t forget to include a deadline for when letters need to be completed for each school.

What Do You Do After?

Waive your right to review recommendation letters. This small checkbox on your college application form gives your recommendations more weight — admissions officers will know you haven’t seen these letters or requested any sort of changes. 

Once you finalize your college choice, write a letter to each person who provided a referral to thank them for their support in the process. Don’t forget to let them know where you’ll be headed if you had multiple colleges you were considering.