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  • Writer's pictureAlison Merzel

Teacher, pretty please?

If you are a high school junior, don't let the school year end without politely requesting a letter of recommendation from an adored teacher, hopefully one who adores you, too. While you may still be finalizing your list of schools and the actual electronic form to submit the recommendation will not come into play until the fall, it is a smart move to put in the ask. Teachers are asked by many students to write letters of recommendation, so the sooner they know you are going to need one the better. Here are 5 tips as you prepare to make the ask:

1) Identify a teacher from a core academic class - a math, science, history, language arts or foreign language course are typically recommended by most colleges/universities. Some schools will require 2 teacher recommendations - the application requirements for each school will help you determine the best choice if a second letter is requested.

2) Ask the teacher if they would be willing write a strong letter of recommendation on your behalf. If the teacher doesn't feel confident that they can represent you most effectively, the "strong" qualifier can give them an out, if need be.

3) Tell the teacher that you will be providing them with information about you to assist in writing a compelling letter. This could be a resume, highlighting your hobbies, extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, etc. If you aren't yet ready to prepare a resume, the format is not as important as the content for this purpose. If you have taken any personality or aptitude assessments, share the results of those to offer the teacher some specific language to use around your strengths. If you know what you want to major in college, share that information so the teacher can speak to your past performance in that subject area, if applicable, or at least address your potential for success in that major based on their experience with you in class and knowledge about your skills and interests.

4) Give them a timeline for when you would like the letters to be completed. If you are targeting an Early Decision or Early Action deadline, you will be looking to submit completed applications as early as October 15 in some cases, but more typically November 1. I always like to have the students request the letters to be done 2 weeks ahead of the deadline so you aren't waiting on teachers to complete their letters at the eleventh hour.

5) Make a note of your teacher's favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Give a gift card as a token of your appreciation once the recommendations have been submitted. It takes a lot of time and effort to write strong letters of recommendation and a small gift is unnecessary but will be greatly appreciated!

Happy asking!

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