Blog 19 – Univerisity Applicants, How Do You Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
Depending on the university and faculty, you may be asked for recommendation letters from teachers, school counselors, or others. Since recommendation letters are only of the few ways for admission officers to gain a holistic view of who you are, these letters can be crucial. So, how do you ask for a letter of recommendation? Here are 4 valuable tips.
1. Don’t Just Focus on the Teachers Who Gave You an A.
A common myth is that the best teacher to ask for a letter of recommendation is the one who gave you an A. Strong recommendation letters allow admission offers to know more about your personality and experience.
Therefore, if you choose a teacher who adds nothing more than a re-emphasis of your grades, what value does this recommendation letter bring? The admission officer can see your entire transcript. He does not someone to tell himself again that you got an A in English 11.
Instead, you should look for recommendations from teachers who know you especially well and, of course, who like you. According to Bobbie Jean S. Huerth, the associate director of application evaluation and training of the University of Wisconsin—Madison, even if you weren’t the top student or you struggled in a class, when the teacher can provide positive comments on how you came for extra help and improve, it is a high-quality letter of recommendation. A letter of recommendation enables admission officers to depict who you are by knowing your work ethic, character, persistence, and growth. And that’s what you should keep in mind when reaching out to your teachers.
2. Plan Ahead and Get a List of What You Did
High-quality recommendation letters don’t happen overnight – they require a process that takes time and planning.
No matter whom you are approaching for the recommendation letter, you should get a list of what you did in the past. Your teachers don’t remember everything you did, and they don’t have time to polish the recommendation letter. It is your responsibility to make their job easier.
Prepare a list of the activities and achievements you accomplished, so your teacher has an abundance of resources to refer to. The better you are prepared, the higher quality they will write YOU the recommendation letter.
It’s such a valuable habit to constantly record and update your activities. In fact, Giraffe Learning asks all its students enrolled in the academic planning service to update the activity record for each semester. The record ensures you don’t forget the details of each activity you did, and will save you so much time when the university application begins.
3. Communicate Face to Face
Once you have decided whom to reach, go to talk to your teachers face to face whenever possible. There are many benefits of face-to-face communication. First, it shows that you highly value this recommendation letter and want to receive a good one. Going to see your recommender is more authentic than simply throwing him an email. Second, you can sense your teacher’s reaction. If he smiles and is very happy when you reached out, he is more likely to write you a letter of recommendation with positivity. On the contrary, by sensing his facial expressions and tones, you would know if you should reach out to someone else.
4. Be Clear and Follow Up
In addition to the activity list, you should also be prepared to inform the recommender of your purpose. Your teacher wants to know what to expect. Tell your teacher the universities you are applying for, what the requirements are for the letter, and what the timeline is. Communicate and give updates to your teacher constantly. I once had a student who went to ask her teacher for a recommendation letter and never followed up. The university’s requesting email ended up in the teacher’s spam folder for months!