3 years ago
Admissions Advice

When and how to ask teachers for a letter of recommendation

I’m a high school junior and I’m wondering how to choose and ask which teachers to write me a letter of recommendation. Also, what approach is best? Thanks!

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3 answers

3 years ago

The easy answer is that it's supposed to be someone who knows you well, teaches a core academic subject, and has taught you recently. But I was recently waitlisted by my first choice. Getting the opportunity to submit additional LORs meant I reached out to teachers I would normally not have reached out to.

There's a prof for dual enrollment I had for two online classes. I felt like we didn't have a great connection, but he ended up being really invested in my process. It turned out he was also an adjunct at my first choice and the classes I took from him have the same curriculum as the ones he teaches at university. I filled out a letter of recommendation questionnaire to help him get to know me better, which led to more questions from him.

There was another professor I had for two online dual enrollment classes. It turned out he was an alumni of my first choice school, and really dug in deep over email trying to get to know me so he could write a good letter.

But then there's a high school teacher I had and thought I was close to. He was my teacher recently and taught a core subject. He didn't follow my directions carefully and accidentally emailed me the LOR. It was pretty common. It looked like the kind of letter that he probably sends for anyone who asks, with just a few details changed so it applied to me.

So I feel like everything I knew on how to choose a teacher for letters of recommendation has been upended. Here's what remains true: It definitely helps to look up a questionnaire online and fill it out. It's supposed to be best to ask in person without anyone else accompanying you. (Don't walk up with a friend and say "Can you write us letters of recommendation?") But with covid, email is a fine alternative to in-person asking. After they write the LOR, you should thank them. And once decisions are done coming in, it's nice to update them on where you got in and even where you were waitlisted. There's no need to tell them where you were denied, as the idea is to thank them again and give credit for where they helped you get closer to your college dreams.

3 years ago

For picking a teacher, in high school, I asked my favorite teacher that I felt I had the strongest work in. Now in college, I asked the professor who taught the most classes in the major I'm in. I find that asking over email is best if you aren't seeing them frequently. Bring up asking them in person then follow it up with an email elaborating more. Always have a few picked out in case one cannot make the deadline or can't write you one.

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