How to Get the Perfect Recommendation Letter

Ashley Yakish
Published on
May 18, 2021

A Letter of Recommendation (LOR) is sometimes required in college applications as they give insights about you to the admission officers to evaluate if you are a student they are looking for. Some schools require only one from your guidance counselor, some require three, and some have a “no recommendation letter” policy. Be sure to check your school’s policy and requirements prior to requesting recommendations.

Who should I ask for a LOR (Letter of Recommendation)?

  • Your guidance counselor (some requires LOR only from your counselor)
  • Teachers from core subjects such as Math or English
  • Teachers who have taught classes related to your future major
  • Teachers who you feel know you the best or who you think are closest to you

When should I ask if they can write LOR for me?

Ask your teachers at least a month prior to your application deadline. A key to a great LOR is making sure to give your teachers enough time. It also helps to ask early when they are not busy with writing other LORs so they can take time on yours. Some schools limit how many LOR teachers can write. To avoid being denied because of this policy, make sure to ask as soon as possible.

How should I ask if they can write LOR for me?

Asking for a LOR is a big deal, since this is an important factor into your admissions and for teachers because they already have a heavy workload. So it is appropriate for you to ask in person, but there are occasions when that is not possible, such as during a pandemic. In these cases, email is the only option.

No teacher is paid to write a LOR, make sure to ask politely and with respect. Do not ask them to write LOR in the first line of the email. Start the email with what you liked about their class and why. Think about their teaching style, if you improved in their class, and why you chose this specific teacher.

Another thing to note is that your teacher may not know what you do outside of the classroom, so tell them about your extracurriculars and hobbies. When asking if they can write it for you, say that if they agree, you will send a resume or a “brag sheet” to help them understand more about you.

For example, you may want to tell your teachers about your volunteer work, awards you have won, leadership roles in clubs, part-time jobs, organizations that you are a part of, your future aspirations, intended majors, and more things that show your teacher who you really are.

Extracurriculars and academic achievements will look stronger if they’re written on the LOR. In the brag sheet, highlight 2-3 traits you would like your teacher to focus on in their LOR and give examples of when you demonstrated those traits in their classroom.

Other tips

Waiving your FERPA rights to see the LOR. This means that you will not be able to see what the recommender writes about you.

  • If you do not waive your rights, admission officers will wonder why you’re not comfortable enough to do so; the letter will be more trustworthy if you waive your rights
  • It could imply that you do not trust the recommender.
  • Writers will be less honest when you don’t waive the rights.
  • Ask the recommender if they sent the LOR a week before just to make sure.

If you are asking a couple of teachers, ask teachers in different departments and in core subjects, such as the STEM teacher and humanities teacher.

The more personal, the better. Generic LOR like “ __(student)__ is a dedicated and hardworking student…..” isn’t authentic at all.

  • Avoid this by making sure to tell them about you, such as your passion and activity outside of the classroom

Read the next article in our college application guide: How to Nail Your College Interview

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