What are Letters of Recommendation and their purpose?
Colleges and universities request recommendations from authoritative individuals that know you relatively well and can give them an insight into your character. The letters should include a description of your various qualities, skills, achievements. They also provide more information to admissions officers about you that highlight qualities that your transcript cannot.
When to ask for recommendations
The application season is busy not only for students but for teachers/counselors as well because they will most likely be writing recommendations for other students as well. At least a month in advance of the due date is a good time to ask someone to write a recommendation for you. Make sure to know the deadlines for each application you are planning to submit and let your recommenders know the deadlines for each letter of recommendation. It is important to follow up with them a week or two before the deadline to make sure they have been or are on track to complete your letter and send it off in the manner requested by the college/university you are applying for.
Who to ask for recommendations
Each college/university is different in whom they require recommendations from so it is important to check each respective application’s requirements. Some colleges/universities may ask for a recommendation from various forms of faculty such as teachers, counselors, or other school officials, so it is important to have a few ideas on whom you might ask. If possible, ask a teacher you have a close relationship with as they will have the best perspective of you. It is also a good strategy to ask a teacher from your junior or senior year as they will have the most current view of you. The best method of asking might range anywhere from emailing that specific person, a quick in-person request, or a formal in-person meeting, but during all of those options make sure you include the information needed to procure the best recommendation.
A template for a letter of recommendation could look something like below:
Hi Mr./Ms./Dr., you have been such a highlight of my experience this year and learning so much under you this year and it would mean the world to me if you would be able to write a letter of recommendation for my application to...
If you are not sure a recommender is right for you and will not be able to paint you in the best light, have a conversation in which you ask if he or she is comfortable writing a recommendation letter for you.
Teachers write many recommendations for many different students, so to help them along and jog their memory. To give the best encompassing view of you, your character and accomplishments, a semi-resume should be included along with your request for a letter that includes:
Semi-transcript (It does not need to be an official transcript)
Extracurricular activities you’ve partaken in both in and out of school
A summary of your hobbies and specific projects
Current accomplishments up-to-date, plans for college and goals for the future
If you have any low tests or grades and you are expounding on the causes, explain what prompted them and how things have improved since.