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Letters of Recommendation

College Planning Center
Tips on Letters of Recommendation

Tips on Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation are not usually needed to apply to CSUs and UCs, but they may be needed for private universities, out-state schools, and ocassionally, highly competitive major programs.  For scholarships however, they are a very common requirement.  Students who seek a letter of recommendation should ask their teacher or counselor a minimum of two weeks in advance.  Don't ask for a letter of recommendation the day or evening before a submission deadline, you need to be responsible with your applications. 


For more information on how to request a letter of recommendation read below:


When you should ask: Timing is everything! Most teachers and counselors have a cap of how many letters of recommendations they are willing to write. Students who ask first are more likely to be able to get their request granted.


How should you ask: Ask in person if possible.  Depending on your teacher's schedule, it may be appropriate to email your teacher to set up an appointment or meeting. Asking for a letter of recommendation solely over email could be interpreted as impersonal, distant, and less mature, an impression you don't want to make in the mind of a recommender.


It is not recommended to asking during class time, but instead find time during a free period, during lunch,  after school, or whenever the teacher has free time to meet. The request may be short, but you still want to create space in case your teacher wants to further discuss your plans.


What to say: While it can feel scary and vulnerable to ask a teacher for this favor, remember that teachers want to help you succeed and continue on in your education. It may also help you to remember that a lot of teachers know what it's like to be on the other side of this process, as they usually undergo observations and evaluations every year.


How to ask: First, explain WHAT you are applying to. Explain the scholarship, College or program (EOP). What is the scholarship or program? If you are applying to a private school go ahead and explain that.


Then follow with…

"I really enjoyed your class. I've learned a lot from you and feel like you've gotten to know me well. As I mentioned, I'm applying to ____________ this year and would like to ask if you could possibly write me a letter of recommendation? I know you are very busy so I really appreciate your consideration and time”. 


If, worst case scenario, your teacher declines or seems hesitant, simply thank them and ask somebody else. You wouldn't want a weak letter that wouldn't help, or could even hurt, your application. You want to find a recommender who will agree to write a letter for you without reservation.


If you've asked someone who knows you well and agrees to provide you with a letter of recommendation, then it's a good idea to share some further information with him/her. Along with a Thank You email, you should share your RIGHT GOLD ARROWLetter of Recommendation "Brag" Sheet


The Brag sheet is really important if you are asking a teacher from an earlier grade level, for example if you're asking your English 10 teacher for a recommendation and you are now a Senior.  They probably don't know the different accomplishments you've earned or the activities you've been in since you were in their class.  Without the "Brag" sheet, all they know is what they remember from your sophomore year. 


After they submit your letters: Thank you letter!

Write a thought out thank you letter (on paper!). Teachers really appreciate a handwritten thank you note. If they feel that you appreciate them you are likely to have teachers who would be willing to write another one in the future.


Other final reminders:

Please remember that true letters of recommendation are NOT meant to be read by the student, and that asking to see it first before it is submitted is considered poor etiquette. If you select teachers who you trust and who know you well, there should be no concern of a strong letter of recommendation being submitted.