A lot of students focus on writing their college essays that they put a little thought about their recommendations. Recommendations are to be written by someone else not you, but for whom? So you need to be serious about your recommendation letters as well since they make up an important portion of your application. Simply hoping you’re your recommender will do it all well and on time can put you into trouble. On top of that, it is not that everybody can write a letter of recommendation for you.
You need to treat the letters of recommendation with as much attention and care as you do the rest of your application materials. You can consider the following three tips before deciding who you are going to ask to write letters of recommendation.
- Don’t pick a recommender who does not know you well
High school students who are not acquainted with their teachers can have trouble in having their recommendations written. They may have questions like ‘Will they write recommendation letters for me?’, ‘Do they know me well enough?’ and, so on. Such thoughts can give one a lot of anxiety while he/she are involved in the application process. Save yourself some of that anxiety by making a conscious effort to get to know your teachers and counselors starting early in 11th grade! This gives you time to build a relationship organically over the course of the year. After all, your junior year teachers will be the ones who know you best at the time applications are due at the beginning of 12th grade.
You can develop good relationships with your teachers and counselors by speaking regularly with them after class about your confusions and queries, or being actively involved in their class. You need a recommendation from your counselor as well. You need to introduce yourself to the school counselor and converse about your future academic plans. Your guidance counselor can be a lot of help to you, from college search, to recommendation letters. So you need to socialize enough within the high school if you want to have good letters of recommendations written for you.
A teacher who does not know well may write a letter of recommendation for you, but that is going to be very general. You have your own features. They need to be come in your recommendations. And for that you need to be close to those who are going to write letters of recommendation for you. A teacher cannot recommend you to a college you just because you were his/her student! He/she should see something in you that makes you deserve a recommendation letter.
By the end of junior year, you should feel more comfortable and be ready to ask them to write your letters of recommendation. You can discuss with them about what could be written. You teacher obviously has a view on you if you are acquainted.
- Pick someone whose background is relevant to your goals
For most schools, you’ll need at least two letters of recommendation and in general, main letters should be written by academic teachers and school counselors. Some schools, such as MIT, ask for one letter to be specifically from a math/science teacher and the other from a humanities, social science or language teacher. In this case, your football coach would not fulfill either requirement (though additional recommendation can be written by the coach if the school accepts extra recommendations). Other schools, notably Davidson and Dartmouth, include a peer letter of recommendation. You cannot ask your teachers to write this letter of recommendation.
Second, consider relevance. In the Dartmouth example, if you have the option to choose between two close friends, where one of them is a current student at Dartmouth, then choose the current student at Dartmouth. They can relate your personality and interests to things specifically relevant to the Davidson campus. A current or past student, or professor who knows you well can lend a sense of legitimacy by expressing why you would be a good fit for this specific campus. Similarly, consider asking for a letter of recommendation from a teacher who has experience in your intended field of study. They will be able to offer anecdotes and evidence showing why you will be successful.
It is better to prefer a recommendation of a physics teacher over a chemistry teacher if you want to pursue physics or closely related discipline in the college.
- Pick the one who you can collaborate with
Knowing someone and being able to collaborate with are two different things. It is not good if your recommender cannot give you enough time to think upon and write a letter of recommendation for you. Never ruin your terms with the teacher or any other person who can collaborate with you in such activities. You should meet your recommender early in your grade 12 and provide them with your resume, personal statement, school list, transcripts, a graded assignment from their class, and pre-addressed envelopes if the letter goes by mail. Have a thorough conversation about the personal attributes and incidents related to you that you’d hope they include. Have initial talk with the recommenders about their judgement on you. Do not forget to remind them the academic or personal ups and downs you faced during the high school years. Ask them when they will have completed the letters and also inform them about your application deadlines. See, all this needs collaboration. Your recommenders should understand you and you should understand them.
If you take all these steps in early days of high school, your collaboration with the teachers becomes stronger. And extra time adds the benefit of identifying potentially bad recommenders: those too busy to write a letter for you, or those you might suspect might not write a wholly positive letter.
You need to ensure in every way you can that letters recommending you to a college should stand out. And this is possible only when they reflect the real you. Finding the right person for the job should start early, at the same time you start considering applying to college. Now go, prepare a list of people who can be best recommenders for you. Do not forget to look for the recommendation requirements of the colleges of your choice.