November 2, 2015
As seniors begin applying to colleges, the application process often requires letters of recommendation from teachers. However, there is a certain etiquette to asking teachers for these letters that students may not be aware of, such as the proper time frame and the way to address teachers.
According to a survey of twenty MN teachers, 50 percent of teachers think that a minimum two weeks prior to the deadline is necessary to write a strong letter of recommendation. Thirty-five percent of teachers want to be notified more than two weeks in advance, while a minority of 15 percent are willing to write letters one week before the deadline.
However, when filling out the applications for college, letters of recommendation are many times the last thing on the student’s mind. Due to this, many students are asking teachers with not nearly enough time.
Despite the lower priority students place on letters of recommendations, it is incredibly important for students to ask teachers well in advance, as this gives them more time to think and write. This then in turn, more often than not, results in a stronger letter that will help strengthen the student’s overall application.
Students may not be aware of this, but according to the same survey, all twenty teachers want to be approached first in person and 30 percent of the surveyed teachers want to have an appointment with the student as well to discuss the purpose of the letter and goals the student have set.
Students should be sure to notify the teacher in person rather than merely sending an email or going through the process on Naviance. While requesting a letter of recommendation via email and Naviance are great resources that should be used, asking politely face-to-face is essential, as it shows that the student truly cares about the letter of recommendation.
Asking in person should be the initial step when informing teachers. Be sure to inform the teacher of the deadline and gentle reminders are also nice, as teachers are busy humans beings as well.
On top of asking face-to-face, 65 percent of teachers want a resume to be able to refer to. Because teachers don’t know every aspect of a student’s life, providing a resume gives the teacher something to refer to while working on the letter. It makes the letter of recommendation stronger because teachers will be able to be more specific.
Lastly, and most importantly, students need to realize that it is not mandatory for teachers to write letters of recommendations for students. Contrary to what many students think, teachers can decline writing a letter. Because of this, being polite is incredibly essential.
Students need to realize that writing letters of recommendation is a favor the teachers are doing for the students and that it isn’t something expected. Students should remember to say “please” and simple thank you notes are always welcome.