Listen up juniors: your teacher could make or break your college application

Are you applying to college? Are you planning on applying to a job at some point? Do you need scholarships? If you said yes to any of the above questions, you’re going to eventually need a letter of recommendation.

By Emma Rosicky

Are you applying to college? Are you planning on applying to a job at some point? Do you need scholarships? If you said yes to any of the above questions, you’re going to eventually need a letter of recommendation.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right person to be your recommender. A good or bad letter of recommendation can either make or break your college application. Colleges take the observations of your teachers and other adults involved in your life seriously, so it’s important that you choose the best person for the task.

As someone who has asked for many letters of recommendation in my college application process, some that turned out well and others that did not, I know how frustrating it can be. I hope to pass along some of the wisdom I have gained from my experience. Below are 6 tips to make your college, scholarship, or job application process a whole lot easier.

Choose a recommender who knows you from all different angles
Not only is it important that you have a good relationship with your chosen recommender, it’s important that your recommender has a good understanding of who you are from all different parts of your life, not just as a student or an athlete. If you can choose an adult who has also interacted with you both inside and outside of the classroom and can speak to your dedication to other activities, your recommendation will stand out more.

Resumes
Not only are they useful for applying to jobs, they are good tools for recommenders to have a better understanding of who you are. If you feel that your recommender doesn’t know you quite as much as you would like, offer to send them your resume. I guarantee they would appreciate the free subject material.

Time is of the essence
Ask for letters of recommendation as far in advance as you can manage. Giving your recommender plenty of time not only allows them to craft a sincere and thorough letter, it’s respectful. It shows that you care about their time and that you are aware of their life outside of your own. Time puts you on the good side of your recommender, and for a stellar letter of rec, you want to be on the good side.

It’s a mystery! (But does it have to be?)
Many college and scholarship applications ask you to waive your right to see your letter of recommendation. On one hand, this looks good to college admission counselors and scholarship committees because it shows that you have faith in the strong relationship you have with your recommender. On the other hand, you could receive a letter of recommendation that you feel doesn’t fit who you are and you wouldn’t even know. It’s probably a good idea to have a conversation with your recommender about this to see how they feel about the issue.

The clock is ticking
If your deadline is approaching and your recommender has yet to submit their letter of rec, don’t be afraid to send them a friendly email reminding them of the deadline. It’s possible they forgot about it for have it done and simply forgot to submit it to the website. Either way, a reminder never hurts. It’s always helpful to keep lines of communication open.

Please’s and Thank you’s
Whenever talking to your recommender, it’s a good idea to thank them for the time and effort they have invested in your letter of recommendation. In every verbal exchange and in every email, add a thank you in at the end to ensure they are aware of your appreciation. It’s also nice to write a thank you letter to your recommender later on, just in an extra effort to show your gratitude. A little gift of some sort can also be nice, whether it be a Starbucks gift card or some homemade cookies.

Juniors, the season of college applications is coming up fast. And it’s never too early to get the ball rolling and at least ask some teachers if they would be willing to write you a letter of rec at some point in the future. Start the conversation and you will already be taking a huge weight off your shoulders for next fall.


Letters of recommendation are possibly the most influential part of any application. Photo courtesy of ABC News.

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