Plan For College

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Letters of Recommendation for College: 3 Questions Answered

Are you back in the swing of the high school routine? If you (or your son or daughter) are a senior, it's go-time for college planning. One part of this big, confusing, and stressful puzzle is finding people to write your letters of recommendation for college applications. These are your champions in the eyes of college admissions officers and it's important to find the right ones.

Ideally, this process would have started toward the end of your junior year, but the very beginning of senior year is going to have to work. Start thinking of your teachers, counselors, employers, mentors or other adults that 1. know you well, 2. understand what makes you different, and 3. have seen your work habits, critical thinking skills, ambitions, and more first hand.

Here are 3 important things to keep in mind during the recommendation letter process:

1. Who should I ask to write my letter of recommendation?
Colleges like to see teachers of the big subjects, but this could change depending on the type of program your are applying to in college. If you are planning on applying to specific college programs like theater or a business school, it would make sense to get a teacher from one of those areas. Some colleges will require a recommendation from a core subject like math or english, however, so keep that in mind.

Most importantly, approach teachers who know you well and understand what you are capable of.

2. When should I approach them? 
Juniors: a few months before the end of the school year.
Seniors: now!

Teachers of juniors are inundated with requests to write college recommendation letters. Therefore, the earlier you can approach teachers the better. They could be writing a ton of letters and if you are toward the end of that, the quality of the letter could go down. Keep that in mind. If you do not give them enough time, you'll be negatively impacted in a few ways: first, the teacher will not have the time to prepare a high quality letter. Second, it's not fair to the teacher and that could subtly show through in the letter.

3. What information should I provide my teacher?
You should set up a meeting with your teacher to go over some things that will help them write a better letter.

a. Talk about why college is important to you
b. Talk about your goals
c. Let them know why you chose them
d. Share your resume of activities and achievements
e. Write down detailed instructions about colleges, application deadlines, forms, and addresses
f. Provide stamps and envelopes

Basically, you want to make this process as easy as possible for your chosen teachers. Not only will they appreciate this, but they'll also learn more about you and how you operate.

So it's time to get on it seniors! Get the game plan in place ASAP!


  1. Great tips...especially about providing and addressed, stamped envelope. Addressing your college recommendation letter yourself prevents the teacher/recommendor from sending it to the wrong address!...which happens!

  2. Thanks for the information. Addressing the college is so important where many people do a lot of mistakes. the article has exact information, people visiting this page should have a look into it.