Student Life

Obtaining Recommendation Letters Early

Shreya Thalvayapati, Student Contributor

December 17, 2018

Obtaining Recommendation Letters Early
When is the right time to approach a teacher for a recommendation letter? And why are recommendation letters so important anyway? Read to find out.
The college application can sometimes make you feel like you are bragging about your own achievements, but the recommendation letters that you earn let admissions officers know that your teachers feel equally as proud about your achievements. Recommendation letters are vital because they allow admissions officers to see what type of a student and person you are from the perspective of someone you has worked with you during your high school career. And most importantly, these letters give admissions officers a sneak peak of your character - and allow them to see what type of person you will be on the college campus. Knowing the importance of recommendation letters, you probably understand why you need to start the process of obtaining one as early as you can, but you would be surprised to find out just how many students wait till the very last minute.
The sooner you request a recommendation letter, the less likely it is for a teacher to simply rush through it. Think about this way: are you going to be more prepared for a test if you have a week to prepare or just five minutes of quick review? The same logic applies to recommendation letters: the more time that teachers have, the better the letter will be. Chances are you are not the only student that asked a teacher for a recommendation letter - meaning that he or she has multiple letters to write. A teacher is more likely to prioritize a request that he or she got two months ago than a letter request from just one week before the deadline. What worse than a teacher writing a rushed recommendation letter? Just straight out denying your request. After all, teachers don’t get paid for writing recommendation letters - so they don’t necessarily have to say yes for your request for a recommendation. The less time that you give teachers, the more likely they are to say no.
Think about it like this: no matter how amazing your best friend is, would you be willing to leniently brag about their support and kindness if you have five tests to study for and 10 applications to submit by the next day? Most likely, no. Most selective colleges and universities require one to three letters of recommendation. Keep this in mind, because you are going to be asking more than one teacher for a favor, which makes it all the more important to start the process early. Oftentimes different schools or even individual teachers have different policies on how many letters they are willing to write and when they will stop accepting requests. If you know for a fact that your school does not have any such policies, then you should plan on asking your teachers one month before the application deadline - one month fits in the perfect range between too early and too late.
The more you know your teachers and the more the teacher knows about you, the better the recommendation letter will be - it’s that simple. If you find yourself thinking about asking the teacher what they are going to write in the letter, you probably shouldn’t be asking that teacher for a letter in the first place - you should be able to blindly trust your teacher that they will only be writing positively about you. After all the stress you undergo about who to ask, how to ask, and how good the letter will be, it can easy to forget to thank your teachers for their time. But, don’t forget to thank them - after all, they did help you complete your college profile!

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