How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation in Four Steps

Asking for letters of recommendations might seem difficult - but it doesn’t have to be!

Student Contributor, Piper Megellas

October 20, 2022

How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation in Four Steps
Learn how to ask for letters of recommendation.
The time for you to apply to college has arrived and with it comes the ever-so-long checklist of required documents: personal statements, supplemental essays, the Common App. And how could we ever forget your letters of recommendation? At first glance, it may seem intimidating to ask your teachers to write these letters for you, especially since it’s a part of your application that is largely in the hands of someone else. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult! By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to expedite the process and ensure that your teachers will feel like you truly deserve the best letter possible.
  1. Create a Brag Sheet

    When asking for a letter of recommendation, you’ll want to provide your recommender with a “brag sheet”. Much like a resume, a brag sheet compiles your various achievements throughout high school.
    In your brag sheet, you should consider including any difficult classes you’ve taken, like AP courses, IB courses, or dual credit courses, your GPA and test scores, all extracurriculars you have participated in throughout high school. You should list your achievements, academic, athletic, or otherwise, and any additional information that might help your recommender get a picture of your application, like any extenuating circumstances they should know about. Your brag sheet will help your recommender get a wider picture of your life and give them out-of-the-classroom context to include in your letter!
  2. Decide Who to Ask

    Deciding who you’d like to write your letters of recommendation is not a small task. However, there are some simple guidelines that can help you.
    For starters, make sure you ask enough people to fulfill requirements for all schools you’re applying to. Generally, this includes your school counselor and 1-2 teachers, depending on the school. You can also consider asking for supplemental letters, which include letters from coaches, arts teachers, or employers. Make sure that whoever you ask has known you for a sufficient amount of time and has interacted with you fairly recently. For teachers, it is best to ask for letters from teachers you had for your sophomore or junior years. A teacher who you had only during your freshman year won’t have updated information on how you perform in the classroom, while a teacher you had only your senior year may not know you well enough yet to provide an adequate letter of recommendation.
  3. Ask Well in Advance

    The last thing you want to do is give your recommender the impression that you’re unprepared. Make sure that you ask them with plenty of time in advance. Your teachers and counselors are busy people! Never ask for a letter less than two weeks in advance. Instead, it’s advisable to ask at least one month in advance. Doing so will not only help your recommender, but also help you, as your recommender will be more likely to write a positive letter.
  4. Thank your Recommenders

    When all is said and done, your recommender is doing you a favor! They don’t have to write you a letter, but they are doing so anyway. Make sure that they feel appreciated. You should at least write them a physical letter to tell them that you appreciate their efforts. There are some situations in which a verbal “thank you” is enough, but this is not one of them. Even if the “thank you” letter won’t change your letter, it is still something you need to do. Teachers take a lot of time out of their day to write your letters!
By following these steps, you should be able to make sure you will receive your letters stress-free. Soon enough, you’ll have those letters and be ready to submit your college applications! And then, the waiting begins…

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