3 months ago
Admissions Advice

Rec Letter Help

So I recently asked several of my teachers for rec letters and got my first response back today. I over shot (asked a total of 5 teachers) when I probably needed only 2-3. I just wanted to play it safe in case some say no, however now I'm realizing this probably wasn't a very smart move. Anyways, I invited this teacher to the common app, and assigned them to one of my schools, just so they would get sent the invite, since they don't get an invitation until they're assigned to a specific school. I have held off on assigning them to other schools just because I'm unsure of how many of the other teachers will say yes, and I can't have 4 recs for a school that only wants 2. Long story short, I waiting to see how many recommenders I will have so I can assign them accordingly. I was just wondering 1st of all, if they can see that I only invited them to one school while I have multiple on my list? I of course am going to assign more schools down the line but I want to make sure it doesn't look like I'm being pretentious. My other question is that do I have to assign recommenders to schools before their letters are finished? Common App says that once a recommender finishes their letter and you have them assigned to a school they're locked in to that specific school's application, which is another reason I wanted to wait and assign schools until after the letters are complete. I just want to make sure that is something I can do. I can still assign recommenders to schools after their letters are complete right? I am under the impression that I can do so and it will just automatically upload to the schools app. IK I'm probably over thinking but I'm really stressed abt this whole rec letter thing since its such an unknown. Any feedback would be much appreciated, thanks!


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2 answers

Accepted Answer
3 months ago

Hi there,

First of all, it's totally understandable that you reached out to additional teachers if you weren't certain about their availability and/or ability to write you a strong letter of recommendation. While asking five teachers for recommendation letters is not the traditional route, it's not the end of the world, and it's certainly better than the alternative, which is having none.

First, I would closely read the guidelines for the letters of recommendation for each of your prospective schools. Many schools require your evaluations come from teachers in core academic subjects only (i.e. math, English, science, and history). Others have specific recommendations for specific majors - for instance, if you're going into STEM/engineering, you must have at least one letter from a math or science teacher.

Once you're certain you have the necessary letters to complete the requirements, you need to determine which teachers will be best at writing your letter. Which know you the best, in the classroom as well as in your personal/extracurricular life? Which ones are likely to write you a personal letter and which don't have the time or resources to be able to do so?

As for timing, I would recommend you determine and assign your teachers to schools before you ask them to complete letters. You should be able to send them a follow up to ensure they don't miss the deadline. I would not recommend asking if they have completed the letter before assigning them, in case you don't end up using their letter.

Furthermore, if there is a teacher whose letter you do not end up using, it's okay to respectfully let them know the situation in person and that you don't need their letter anymore. You can also use their letter for a scholarships, summer programs, etc.

Hope this helps!

3 months ago[edited]

Why did you ask 5 teachers for recommendations for the Common App when you only need 2? I don't see any upside for doing this because all the schools on the common app only expect exactly 2 teacher recommendations. It might make better sense to secure the 2 best recommenders who can go to bat for you rather than trying to figure out how to mix and match 5 recommenders. Personally, I'd always want the 2 best recommenders regardless of where I'm applying to. If you ask 5 teachers, chances are only 1 or 2 really know you well anyway.

To answer your first question, if I were a teacher and was assigned to recommend you to American University, I would wonder why you decided to ask me to only recommend you to 1 college. I don't think I'd worry about what your teachers can or can't see.

If you ask 5 teachers for a recommendation, CommonApp will not be sending you notifications about which of the 5 teachers have turned in their recommendations prior to them being assigned a school. If you want a status update from CommonApp, you'll have to pre-select the recommender to the specific college.

I'd consider going back to some of them to tell them that you need them to write recommendations for scholarships. When all teachers are busy writing recommendations, some may find it rude to expect the same teachers to write your college application recommendation, your scholarship recommendation, and any other recommendation that might come about. Therefore you want to be as considerate as possible f you are going to be applying to different things or applying to some schools that do not use the common app like Georgetown University or UC schools.


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