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Here’s an interesting article if you (or your teen) is getting ready to gear up for college next year. Lining up your letters of recommendation are critical. This is very basic, but it will give you an idea on where to start. If you would like more information, or have questions; check us out on-line at www.collegelifeplanning.com
Lining Up Letters of Recommendation
Long ago, in a public high school far away, I made plans to
apply to three universities. Early in my senior year, I asked
my creative writing teacher for a letter of recommendation to
William and Mary, her alma mater. Her response: “I don’t
know you well enough to write a good one.” Ouch. By spring,
when she knew me well and had heard I was waitlisted, she apologetically
offered to write a letter. I sullenly rejected her offer and pulled
myself off the waitlist.
I made several mistakes: 1) colleges usually prefer letters
from core academic teachers-English or math, for instance-and
I had no business asking a creative writing teacher unless I had
phenomenal talent (I did not) 2) in a public high school with
big classes, it takes time for a teacher to know a student well-a
junior-year teacher would have been a better choice, and 3) when
the teacher offered an extra letter, I should have accepted-such
an additional edge might have led to my admission.
A decade after I left for the University of Virginia, I began
teaching English to juniors and seniors in a college-prep school.
Since then, I’ve written scores of letters of recommendation and
have seen that students today are better informed and coached.
Their savvy sets the bar higher for you. Here’s how to match the
Make a list of dates by which recommendations must be submitted.
Are you applying early decision or early action? Then forms might
be due as early as November. A month before the first deadline
is not too early to ask a teacher; a week is too late. Teachers
may limit the number of recs they will write, so if you’re among
the last to ask, you could be shut out.
Not during a fire drill. Not as a teacher sits at the lunch
table among other teachers or students. Find a quiet time when
the teacher can talk one-on-one and consider your request thoughtfully.
In a perfect world, you would make an appointment to talk with
the teacher about your list of schools, your plans for college,
and what you see as your accomplishments and strengths. Don’t
walk in with forms in hand, assuming he will say yes. Ask first.
I loved when students gave me a folder with all the forms and
envelopes organized inside, lines for names and addresses completed,
envelopes addressed and stamped. The best was when a student attached
to the outside of the folder a schedule chronologically listing
due dates for recommendations. Teachers are busy, with many demands
on their time, and with papers continuously flowing into and out
of their lives. Anything you can do to help organize these papers
makes a good impression and helps ensure your letters are submitted
on time. I also loved when students used the Common Application,
which meant fewer forms for me to fill out. Finally, it’s not
pushy to remind the teacher of a deadline a week before it arrives:
if the date has slipped his or her mind, you’ll both be glad of