Tips from an Anaheim Tutor: How to Get the Best Letters of Recommendation from Your Teachers
Letters of recommendation are a requirement for nearly every college application. The majority of these letters tend to come from high school teachers who can give insight into how the student performs and acts in the classroom. These letters can be valuable to admissions officers because they are often the only second-party accounts of the student’s abilities and personality – book your private Anaheim college admissions consultant for the summer.
As such, having good letters of recommendation is important for your applications. However, asking for letters is a topic of significant stress for many students. Which teachers should I ask? When do I ask? How do I make sure they write me a good letter? How should I ask them? These are all common questions, but luckily, they have relatively straightforward answers:
Which teachers should I ask?
Ask the teachers who know you best. It is not vital that you got an ‘A’ in their class (though it is preferred). The letter of recommendation doesn’t have to talk about specific grades. What you want from a letter is for it to be personal and stand out. Many applicants will have letters from teachers that are very generic and surface-level because the teacher doesn’t know the student well. You want a teacher who you are closer too and who can write a more individualized and detailed letter.
If you don’t have a teacher you feel you are close to, don’t worry. Ask the teachers whose classes you did well in and who seem nice or helpful. We’ll discuss how to get a good letter from these teachers soon.
When do I ask?
As early as possible. Ideally, you ask sometime in your junior year. You can also ask over the summer. Teachers get the most requests from procrastinating students shortly before deadlines. A letter is extra work for a teacher. If they have a dozen extra letters to write two weeks before application deadlines, then they are unlikely to be putting in a huge individual effort into your letter. Ask early, and send occasional (friendly!) reminders.
How do I make sure they write me a good letter?
Show them what you want. Many teachers don’t know how to write good letters. It is very common to receive a poor letter from a teacher who had the best intentions. It is also very common to receive a poor letter from a teacher who didn’t know enough about you to write a detailed one. The letter of recommendation should be an opportunity for you to highlight the skills and qualities that you want to be emphasized on your application. Here are two ways to help guarantee:
-Give a list of things you would like mentioned in your letter. This way they know what you want written about and have a reminder of things you’ve done. You can also include what you don’t want to be mentioned if there is something you’re worried about being included.
-Write your letter for them. This is slightly controversial as you are not supposed to be writing your own letters. Here is how you do it ethically: write an example letter that is exactly what you are hoping that the teacher would write. Don’t be humble in it; it may feel embarrassing, but now is the time to brag about yourself. Then, give it to your teacher as an example of what you’re looking for. Ask if they could write a letter similar to the one you gave them and that they can use your letter for reference.
How should I ask?
In person, early, and with material for them to use. If you can’t ask in person because it’s the summer, then it is okay to email rather than waiting for the year to begin. Make sure you include either the list of things you want to be included, or an example letter. When you ask, don’t ask if they can just write you a letter. Ask if they would be comfortable writing a letter touching on the things that you provided them.
It is okay if they say no, or that’s not how they write letters, or that they don’t accept input from students on letters. At that point, it’s usually better to ask a different teacher, unless you are confident that this one will write a good letter on your own. You will find that many teachers will be more than happy to use the guidelines you provide or to simply edit a letter that you already wrote. It makes the process easier for them and better for you. Now is not the time to be embarrassed.
These recommendations are important parts of your application. Do what you can to make sure your teacher is writing a good one.
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Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.
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