teacher addressing class
Letters of Recommendation


The best people to ask for a letter of recommendation for college are your instructors—the ones who know you best in the classroom.

They know your intellectual abilities and academic skills. They know how you respond to teaching and understand your capacity and desire to learn.

Two important things to remember:
  • Ask for the letters before you leave for the summer before your senior year.
  • Write a thank-you note to the instructor(s) who wrote letters for you.

A columnist for U.S.News & World Report offers five tips for getting recommendation letters that will really help strengthen your applications. Peter Van Buskirk says:

  • Choose teachers who know what you can do. These are the teachers who push you and don’t let you settle for “good enough.” One of your recommenders should be someone who is familiar with your critical thinking and communication skills.
  • Give your counselor and teachers the courtesy of time. Your recommenders need time to think about and prepare the letter. If you are a high school senior and still have not asked folks to write on your behalf, do it now!
  • Talk with your recommenders about why college is important to you. Share your dreams and ambitions. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Give them the necessary information and insight so they can write well-balanced letters on your behalf.
  • Share a brief résumé of your activities and achievements with them.
  • Provide a list of your application deadlines and the appropriate forms. This includes the pre-addressed, pre-posted envelopes used by each of the colleges for letters of recommendation. You will be able to waive your right of access to that letter and you should. Your recommenders need to be able to provide complete and balanced perspectives without having to worry about how you or your parents will react to what they have written.