Asking your teachers for recommendation letters for your college application can be uncomfortable and intimidating, for sure. If you've been dreading this task because the process seems awkward, you're certainly not alone; everyone feels this way. But all the same, it has to be done. And since most early college application deadlines are scheduled for early November, you'll need to take action now.
Here are a few tips that can boost your odds of acquiring the kind of recommendation letter that can make the difference between college acceptance and rejection.
Choose your teachers carefully.
Despite what you may assume, most teachers are mildly flattered by this request (not annoyed), and they understand what's expected (they're unlikely to be confused or surprised). In other words, they've does this many times before, and it's a standard part of their jobs. But that does NOT mean that you're entitled to their support. You'll still need to ask respectfully, and you'll need to choose teachers who have been impressed by your work in the past. Don't choose someone if you slept through their class, treated them rudely, didn't try your best, didn't turn in work, or contributed very little to class discussions.
Making your initial request face-to-face is a good way to get commitment and to get a feel as to whether a particular instructor will give you a strong recommendation. Wait until the end of class and present your question politely. Take care to explain what the task will entail, and be very clear about the deadline. Your teacher may know these things already, but that doesn't matter. Explain anyway. If you get a positive confirmation, then send a formal email explaining the request in more detail between 1 and 2 days after your initial chat with your teacher.
Share your plans.
Be generous with information about your plans, dreams, target colleges, and intended major. These things are par for the course when engaging with adults and enlisting their help and support. Consider this your very first exercise in networking, a skill you'll need as you begin your career.
Help your teacher to help you.
Since your teacher will need to make specific comments about your work, your personality, and your accomplishments, help them out by presenting them with a written list of these things. In clear paragraphs or bullet points, describe your extracurricular activities, your interests, and the accomplishments that have made you proud. In cases where teachers need to submit recommendation letters directly to a college, make sure they have all the information necessary to do so – they shouldn't have to go hunting for it.
If your teacher declines your request, thank them anyway. But if they accept, make sure you follow up later and provide at least one reminder as the deadline approaches. Keep in mind that your teachers are doing you a favor, and they have no obligation to say yes OR to follow through after doing so. If you want them to help you, don't make them do any more work or face any more aggravation than necessary. They should not have to remember the task without reminders, conduct any of their own additional research, do any legwork of any kind, or pry any information out of you.
—For more on how to make this socially challenging process easy on yourself as well as your supporters, rely on the tools and job search resources available on MyPerfectResume.