College Readiness

Tips for Simplifying the College Recommendation Letter Process

April 30, 2015 Updated April 29, 2015

As a junior in high school, I have spent immeasurable amount of time studying, worrying, and doing. I can officially look back on my Junior year and say, I've done all that I could. As a student though, there is only so much that I can do on my own. If it was my choice, I'd do everything on my own. You see, students are people too, and having individuals who I may or may not trust have any control over my future, that is a scary and vulnerable place to be. Specifically, I am referring to rec letters. Yes, the dreadful letters of recomendation. Letters so awful for a college reviewer to read, so tedious for teachers to write, and so painstakingly nerve wracking for students to ask to be written, there is no winner with rec letters. 

This may not be in all schools, but in my public high school, most all students ask at least two teachers for a letter of recommendation. It can be an incredibly scary and daunting task to ask such a favor of your teachers. Many educators at my school do not write recomendation letters at all. Some limit their load to just 3 or 4, others take on as much as 50. As a student, you must be in the know. Don't waste your breath sucking up to a teacher that won't pay up in return. This is the sad but manipulative truth of college applications. 

So, one may ask, how can students and educators alike make the college recomendation letter process better for all? Speaking from personal experience, many ways!

For educators, I do not believe most teachers see how uncomfortable and vulnerable it is for a student to ask for a rec letter. To make this process easier, make it clear to students what your stance is on writing letters. When my math teacher approached me personally at the end of the year, he naturally and comfortably let me know that I could see him for a recomendation letter. Another teacher let the entire class know at the beginning of the year that if you were looking to apply to the University of Michigan (many students at my school do), then he would gladly write your letter since he was an alumni there.

If you are an educator that chooses to write only a limited amount of letters, please let your students know that. If this is you, it is easiest for the teacher to approach the students who they intend to write letters for, instead of keeping students in the dark wondering if they qualify as being "one of those 3-4 chosen children".

If you are a teacher who does not write any letters at all, it is vitally important to notify your students of this. It is tough enough to approach an educator for a letter of recomendation, the last thing a student needs is to fear that the teacher will reject their request.

One way that students can make the rec process easier is by keeping their options open. Don't burn bridges through out your high school career--educators are your allies in this process, you need as many as you can get.

I have also found it easy to provide teachers with a resume, this way they know what kind of person you are beyond the classroom.  Also, ake it is easy for the teachers to write about you. It's okay to have real, genuine converstations--teachers are people too, so let them know who you really are. 

I hope this was helpful! Let me know in the comments thoughts and feelings, thanks for reading.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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  • College Readiness
  • Learning Environments
  • Student Voice
  • 9-12 High School

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