Letters of Recommendation Template

Learn about requesting a letter of recommendation.

Letters of recommendation can distinguish you from your peers. It’s important that you get the best letters possible, so be sure to watch these brief videos and read on to learn more about the recommendation process.

IMPORTANT: Writing letters of recommendation can take time, so don’t wait until the last minute to ask your teachers or advisor/counselor. Give them plenty of time—at least three weeks. Your teachers are busy, so when you ask them, do so courteously, and show your appreciation for the work they do for you.

Why do some colleges want letters of recommendation from my teachers and counselors?

Letters of recommendation help admission committees get to know you better. They are an opportunity for your teachers and advisor/counselor to present their perspectives about who you are and how you might contribute to the intellectual and social communities on campus.

These letters illuminate your level of engagement in your studies, your intellectual curiosity, and your ability to work through problems.

Recommendation letters can be useful to expand upon a point of pride or an activity mentioned elsewhere in your application and to support what you’ve expressed about yourself. They may also inform the college of something that hasn’t been discussed elsewhere, including experiences or anecdotes that did not fit anywhere else or more sensitive subjects that you want to address more fully.

How do I decide which teachers to ask?

Colleges prefer to see a junior year teacher write at least one of your letters of recommendation. These teachers have your performance fresh on their minds, and your junior year classes are typically more rigorous than those you’ve previously taken.

Select teachers who teach core academic classes: science, math, English, history, or a world language. If a school requires multiple letters, try to include teachers who have taught you a range of subjects.

Consider teachers who you’ve had in class more than once or who serve as advisors or mentors to you in another capacity. These teachers will be able to draw on their experience with you in and out of the classroom.

Pick teachers who have something unique to say about you. How well does the teacher know you? Consider what the teacher might cover in a letter about you and choose teachers who will write a letter you would be proud to present.

How can I help my teacher or counselor write a stronger recommendation letter?

Fill out a questionnaire about your experience in their class to give to your teachers. This form helps teachers write more specific letters. Download your Teacher Recommendation Request Form.

While college admission officers won’t read these forms, write them as if they were! Teachers might use similar language, so describe yourself in a way you would want colleges to see.

Use specific examples and deep thought to differentiate yourself from your peers. Your teachers love their subject, so getting feedback and hearing how their classes helped you is useful. By filling out this form thoroughly and thoughtfully, you’ll save your teacher time. You should be spending more time on this form than your teachers spend on writing the recommendation.

Tell your teachers what it is about your experience with them that encouraged you to ask them to write a letter of recommendation.

Ask your teachers for a meeting to specifically discuss the letter and your future plans. Explain you’d like to find some time to share thoughts or stories that demonstrate how you benefited from their class. You might explain that you’ve visited colleges or spoken with particular admissions representatives (or watched the YouTube video above) and that they indicated these questions are important in letters. You’d like to share with them what you’ve come up with as ideas.

Do I need a letter of recommendation from my counselor?

Most colleges do require a recommendation from your school counselor.

A counselor letter covers your entire high school career and can highlight what is not noted elsewhere in your application. It covers the bigger picture—family, community, and activities. A counselor’s letter may reference cultural differences, examples of leadership outside of the classroom, or influence on the community.

What preparation should I complete before asking my counselor for a letter?

Check in with your school’s counseling office. Do they already have a form to fill out to provide more information about your high school experience? If not, you and your parents or guardians should fill out the following forms to give them more information:

Ask to set up a meeting with your counselor to discuss the letter of recommendation, to review the forms you filled out, and to let them know the colleges to which you are applying. 

What are admissions officers looking for in a recommendation letter?

Watch the video below to learn more about how college admissions officers read and understand recommendation letters.

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