Academic Recommendations:

Choose wisely for your Letters of Recommendation

Not all colleges request academic recommendations, but when they do, regard it as important. Very important, as in, they can make or break your application.

The people you choose to write these letters are your character witnesses; sometimes they provide the only personal look at you a college has, outside of your application essays.

Generally, teachers are asked to do this very time-consuming activity.

During your junior year be thinking about whom you might ask for academic recommendations. In the fall of your senior year, begin asking possible recommenders if they would be willing to write a letter for you.

Remember, the main purpose of this letter is for you to have someone positively comment on your ability to do well in college.

If a teacher who knows you well, and who would supply you with a good academic recommendation plans to leave your school, ask if he or she would mind writing a recommendation letter when the time comes.

Ask teachers who taught classes in which you did well, and in which you were recently enrolled. It is particularly important to ask teachers who can offer views of your participation in different kinds of classes, say for instance science and history, math and English, rather than asking two history teachers.

So, How Do I Go About This?

  • Choose academic recommender(s) carefully.

  • Ask ahead of time, rather than right before recommendations are due. Remember that hundreds of other students may be making the same request, get there early.

    • Be humble.

    • Be organized - go out of your way to make this as easy as possible for the person writing an academic recommendation for you.

    • Be grateful.

    • If you know of a popular teacher being asked by almost every student, look around for a less-popular, or lesser-known teacher who might write a letter for you.

      Among the reasons for this are that you want a personal, unique letter, not a carbon copy of the one sent for dozens of students. If a teacher has scores of requests, he/she cannot possibly personalize each academic recommendation.

    • If using forms from a college application, make copies.

    • Write a cover letter to each recommender, thanking him or her for agreeing to write the letter for you.

    • If you are applying to multiple colleges, the teacher may want to address the letters "To Whom it May Concern." This is acceptable, although it is a bit nicer if the letters are addressed to the particular school.

      • In the cover letter, mention that you would like a comment about how you would do well (if true) with the academic rigors of this college.

      • Also mention any other activities you participated in with this person.

      • Include a resume or a list of your activities, a reminder of your presence in this person's class, and perhaps a copy of an assignment you completed (with a good grade) in the class, and a copy of your application essays, provided of course, that they are finished.

      • Include an addressed, stamped envelope for each college to which an academic recommendation is to go. They are not returned to you for mailing.
    • Check in a few weeks to be sure the letters were sent.

    • Send another thank you note to the recommender.

      A Note About Teacher Recs and the Common Application.

      The Common Application Web site provides a college application form you can use to apply to almost five hundred (mostly private) colleges in the U.S. Included on the Web site are the other forms you will need to accompany the application: mid-year school reports, counselor evaluations. letters of recommendation forms, links to the colleges, and step-by-step directions.


      One application, lots of colleges, including the designer label schools.

      One essay for all applications.

      In addition, on their supplement, individual colleges may ask for recommendations for a student:

      Note: Don't forget to check for individual school's supplements.

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