Before you ask for a letter of recommendation, remember that your teachers and counselors may write hundreds of them this fall. As a result, it is very important to make their job in writing your letter as easy as possible.
Teachers have written hundreds of letters of recommendation and, frankly, most students do not know the etiquette of how to deal with a letter writer. In fact, many teachers and professors complain about how students request references.
Here are the main complaints that recommendation writers have:
- Students tend to wait until the last minute to make their requests.
- Students don’t provide any reference materials to help the writer craft the letter.
- Students neglect to sign the FERPA statement on the top of the letter. (By the way, you should waive your rights. Admissions committees are sometimes suspicious if you don’t.)
- Students don’t include postage on the envelope if the letter needs to be mailed.
- Students fail to follow up with a thank-you note.
To avoid these common breaches of etiquette in requesting letters, there is a clear set of directions below of how to deal with your letter writers. These steps include:
- create an information packet for your letter writers
- provide all of the necessary paperwork properly filled out
- make sure you include postage (if necessary)
- follow up with a thank-you note
Once you have your references lined up, you need to create a packet of information to drop off to them as soon as possible. Your references need a summary of your GPA and SAT scores as well as an overview of your activities.
In addition to providing your references with background information, you also need to make sure that you provide them with the appropriate forms from the college applications.
Finally, it is very important that you include a stamped envelope addressed to the schools to which you are applying. While many applications—including the Common Application—accept online recommendations, not all do.
It is your job to keep track of which letters need to go where and to make it easy for your references to electronically submit or mail their letters.
So what should go in the information packet? These packets should include:
- a copy of your most recent transcript
- a copy or your SAT (or ACT) scores, AP scores
- a copy of your student resume
- recommendation forms with the top portion completed by you (you will need each school’s form unless they use the Common Application)
- addressed to send a letter to
- a list of your accomplishments in class
- a note of due dates
Give your letter writer at least four weeks to complete their letter of recommendation. You should assemble all of the materials discussed here and place them in a large envelope to give to your letter writers.
Follow up with your letter writers before the deadlines to make sure that they completed your letters.
Just send a short e-mail that says something like, “Thank you for taking the time to write me a letter of recommendation. I just wanted to remind you that the deadline is such and such date.”