4 Ways to Avoid the Awkwardness of Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

By Allyn Belusko - Marymount School - California

Congrats, you are almost done with high school! Not quite though—you need to get letters of recommendation for your upcoming college applications. But fear not. Asking your teacher for a letter of recommendation is much simpler than you may have thought. Do NOT underestimate the power a good letter of recommendation can do for your overall application. 

How Do I Pick the Right Teacher? 

This is key. You need to ask yourself a few questions before you start heading up to your favorite teacher to get a recommendation. Start with these: 

What year did they teach you? You will want to ask a teacher/mentor who preferably taught you or worked with you in 11th grade.

How have you performed in his or her class? Have you actively participated, brought new opinions to class discussions, or proven you are an exceptional writer? You want your teacher or mentor to write a fabulous letter, so consider a teacher who has seen your best performance.

How well do they know you? Think of a teacher or mentor that you feel close to, who has seen you grow and improve over time. The more you know your teacher or mentor, the better they will be able to write an honest letter of recommendation.

When to Ask?

Now that you narrowed downt the right person, find a time to ask your teacher or mentor for a letter. The earlier you ask, the better. It is preferable to ask during the second half of Junior year, so your teacher or mentor will have plenty of time to write an amazing letter. Then, make sure that they are not busy—do not ask during class or work, when they are talking to another teacher, or if you happen to see them randomly in passing. Think about when they are free. Do you know that they stay after class to talk to students on certain days? Do they have office hours? Make sure that you ask at a time that is comfortable for both you and whoever you are asking.

What to Say?

Before you approach your them, think about what you want to say. Be respectful and honest, and your teacher will most likely agree to write a letter for you. Teachers want to see their students succeed, so don’t be nervous about asking. Teachers expect students to ask for letters of recommendation, so you are not the first to be nervous about approaching them.

How Should I Follow Up?

If your teacher or mentor agrees to write a letter, thank them and offer to send an email with the template (if your school uses one). In the email, thank them again for offering to write the letter, and consider attaching your resume. If they see a list of your accomplishments or challenges that you overcame, they will be able to better understand you and therefore able to write an even better letter of recommendation. Lastly, make sure to send follow up reminders. Your teacher or mentor is likely very busy and it is up to you to make sure they follow through with your recommendation. 

Now that you have a your letters of recommendation, you are free to work on looking at colleges and narrowing down the choices to what best fits you. Make sure to thank your teacher once you get into college, as their letter of recommendation is essential to your success. Good luck!