How to ask for recommendations?

How do you approach your teachers and couselors for recs? Do you give them a copy of your resume or tell them what you want them to include in the rec? Also, are you supposed to send in your three letters of recommendations separately in different envelopes or can you combine them?

As far as teacher recs go, just find a teacher who KNOWS you and LIKES you. I asked my chemistry teacher for one of my recs, since she was my teacher for 2 different chem courses and I thought I did pretty well in that class. If they hesitate when you ask them for a rec, then it’s probably best to try someone else. You don’t need a resume to hand them or anything…if anything, I think that just seems a little overly pretentious.

A resume isn’t necessary because what the school wants is information that the teachers know that’s based on what they saw you do in class and in organizations that they advise. The colleges don’t want the teachers to basically rehash your resume.

What can be helpful to give the teachers is: a copy of your college essays; copies of one or two excellent term papers or tests that you did for their class; a note about your contributions to any organizations that they advise, and info about why you are applying to the colleges you chose, and what you plan to major in and are considering as your eventual career.

When I was a college prof, I wrote recommendations for students, and the kind of info that I suggest is what I found helpful. No matter how much your teacher likes you, s/he isn’t likely to remember specific details of your performance without your providing reminders like tests, papers, a memo.


Typically when you give your teacher the form for the recommendation, you also give them a stamped, addressed envelope for them to send in the rec with. The instructions on the application should tell you exactly what the college expects- so make sure to follow them.

Everytime i ask for a rec, I always give my resume and a letter (about a page) to them stating basically why I’m applying to certain schools.

Starting Example:

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. ______,
Thank you so much for helping me with the college application process…

a folder with a list of colleges, deadlines, application type, checklist, resume, cover letter, all the forms (fill out as much as you can yourself), all the envelopes - stamped and pre-addressed, and that’s it i think.

also get them gifts and ask them every now and then how its coming along

get them gifts? are you serious? also, i think your GC is supposed to mail out the recs if you’re doing the common app.

My kids’ school has a packet/folder of info for the student to fill out, listing all schools the student is applying to, listing their ECs, personal info, etc. Certain forms go to the teachers, the GC, outside agencies (like someone the student might work or volunteer for), and the parents to fill out if they want. The school also wants a copy of an essay and a resume. I think the GC then keeps everything in this folder.

You don’t need to get them gifts, though you should give them hand written thank-you notes.

Also, make sure that you give the teachers in writing the date that the letters are due to the schools, and also give them the recommendation forms several weeks in advance of that date.

Ok probably a stupid question, but when applying to multiple colleges do you usually have one or two (or more, however many necessary for one particular collee) teachers write a rec to all of them? So that the teachers are writing multiple letters? Or are you supposed to have a few different teachers write them so each is only writing one?

For those juniors who might read this thread…

  1. It’s a good idea to ask the teachers you want to write recs at the end of <em>junior</em> year and follow up with an email thanking them for doing this and to confirm. Rec letters are done entirely on the teacher’s free time, so give them as much advance notice as possible. Ask teachers who know you well if they would be comfortable writing you a rec. I prefer this method rather than “will you?” as it gives them a graceful way out if they aren’t comfortable writing a letter. You might tell them why you’ve chosen them. Teachers like to know they’ve made a difference.

  2. Knowing who your recommenders are early will enable you to prepare an activity summary/personal statement BEFORE school starts in the fall. You will be glad you did this come October of senior year!

  3. If they respond to email, ask them (before school starts) how they’d like the material. Some want everything in folders, others may want it all

Never send a thank-you note via email; it should be hand-written.

Remember to xerox as many copies of the common app rec cover sheet as you will need. The teacher’s job is to write and send the letter, not make copies.

Never put your return address on the stamped envelopes you give to the teacher. The return address should include the teacher’s name and the address of your school.

At many high schools, the recommendations are submitted to the guidance office and a staff member copies the letters to send to different schools. In my D’s school, the student must supply stamped, addressed envelopes for each college. No matter what the system is at your high school, if you are applying to multiple schools with various requirements, submit a sheet to the guidance office with all of the schools, what is required and when are the materials due.

Northstarsmom gave excellent recommendations. My daughter submitted a cover letter and a resume to each teacher. She asked them in the summer following her junior year if they would be willing to write one for her and when they agreed, she gave them the materials over the summer. She personalized each letter (thanking them for writing the letter) and talked about what she felt she could contribute to a college and what she hoped to accomplish. She attended a large public high school and we know that both teachers really did an excellent job. She wrote a thank you note after the guidance counselor received them. In the spring, when she knew where she was going to attend, she sent them a pen with the name of the university on it - thanking them again for taking the time to write a letter.

I think letters are very important. You don’t want someone to just rehash your resume or say you are a hard worker or a good student - so choose carefully, give the person PLENTY of time to do a good job, and express you appreciation for their willingness to help you.

Hi,I’m a senior too, and I knwo it’s a trivial quesiton, but what kind of envelope do I need to give to teacher? what size? and do I put “common app rec cover sheet” in each envelope?

If you’re applying to a ton of schools, can’t you just ask your teachers to write a rec each and then photocopy the written recs to get the number of copies you need?

I would think that the teacher has to at least sign each rec. Typically, you wouldn’t see the rec, either.

So basically, the teacher could just write one rec, make the number of copies necessary, and just sign each copy?

My D was told to use 8 1/2 x 11 by guidance office but everything (transcripts, recommendations) from teachers and guidance went into the envelope. Don’t forget, there is also a checklist for the person recommending you to fill out as well.

There are no foolish questions with this process - it is far better to make sure you are organized and making it easy for the people helping you. I have worked with many high schools and I have seen the mountains of papers that pass through guidance offices. I am actually surprised that most of the time, the materials go to the right places. Stay organized!

I would exercise caution about giving a resume (in the literal sense of that word) to a teacher when you ask them to write your recommendations.

Your teachers want to be your advocates, but frequently, with so many recommendations to write, they get stumped about what they want to say. It’s important to play a role in helping them remember what makes you a special student (and there have been some excellent suggestions on how to do that already), but giving a teacher a resume can have the reverse of your intended effect. Looking at your resume will only help them remember your grades and your extracurriculars, as opposed to your qualities as a person or as a student. This could lead your teachers to list off your grades or your extracurriculars rather than giving us a first-hand perspective on who you are. Those of us reading your applications already have lists of your extracurriculars and we already have your grades. A teacher rec that gives us info on your resume merely repeats what we already know.

Try to find ways to encourage them to tell stories about you and the things you’ve done in or out of the classroom. A teacher telling us a story about you is much more likely to have authenticity and more likely to share something that is actually reflective of your skills, strengths, and characteristics.

Remember, many schools look to your teacher recs specifically for information that cannot be captured in a resume.

Ask as far ahead in advance as you possibly can. And shy away from teachers who are extremely busy with something else. I originally asked my choir director for one, but the letter was needed during a time that we were extremely busy with trips and competitions. I never received the letter from him. Luckily I had a backup teacher (STRONGLY recommended) who gave me an amazing rec letter that I still have the original of.

When my English class was doing our Professional Portfolio, part of the project was to type up a Request Letter for a rec. letter. Our teacher had us tell the requested exactly what we want in the letter: accomplishments, specific EC’s, whatever.

Also, we were told that as long as the signature is on the original, that we should NOT mail the original and only mail out photocopies.