Here are some tips to help you secure a recommendation that can help your application stand out:
Ask the right person: First and foremost, colleges want to hear from a teacher who can describe your motivation, work ethic, reaction to setbacks, or resourcefulness. You might also choose to provide a recommendation from guidance counselors, coaches, or club supervisors with whom you have had a successful or positive interaction. They should know you well, like you, and respect you. Most importantly, however, they should be reliable. Don’t ask parents or relatives unless the college specifically offers this option. Also, don’t ask people who don’t know you well.
How to ask: Take some time (after school, for example) to really talk to the person you’re asking. Explain which schools you are applying to and what you plan to study. Make it easy for them – provide this information in writing, and feel free to include a list of potential highlights they may choose to include (for example, a research paper, group project, or other distinguishing aspect of your relationship with them.)
When to ask: Approach recommenders early. Some of the best, most engaged, and most popular teachers are swamped with requests for recommendation writing. Get your request in well before your application deadlines to give them ample time to complete the task. Include a list of the colleges you are applying to and the dates the recommendations are due.
Be appreciative. Don’t forget to write a thank-you note after the recommendation has been submitted, and remember to keep your recommenders informed about your ultimate college choice. They’ll be glad to know that their participation helped you get to this point.