Letters of Recommendation

Most colleges will ask for two or three letters of recommendation. Colleges want letters written by teachers in the five core subjects--English, History, Math, Science, and Foreign Language--most likely during the student's Junior year of high school. They should be written by someone who knows you beyond just the grades you receive in class. The teacher should be able to describe you and you accomplishments. Through these letters, colleges want to learn something about you that your high school transcript can't tell them.

Here's how to start:

  • Decide on two teachers to write letters of recommendation for you. Ask teachers who know you well, understand your strengths, and will write about you in a positive light.
  • If the college allows for you to submit a supplemental letter of recommendation, consider people who can provide a different insight to you and your abilities. This could be a teacher in a pre-college program, counselor, pastor, coach, or employer. Make sure to follow any instructions the colleges provide about their respective letter of recommendation policy.
  • Give recommenders your resume or a brag sheet that highlights your accomplishments. It will help to inform their writing.
  • Allow enough time for your letters to be written. Some teachers might require students to ask them in the Spring of the Junior year or in the beginning of their Senior year. Make sure to know if your college office or teacher has a policy for this process. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least one month prior to the submission deadline. Make sure your references are aware of the submission deadlines, and follow up a week or so before the deadline.
  • Meet with the individuals who are writing your letters to discuss your accomplishments, extracurricular activities, interests and plans for college and the future.
  • Once you've decided where you are attending college, write your recommenders a thank you note.