After excelling in Advanced Placement (AP) classes, volunteering, working part-time and playing Romeo in the school play, you feel ready for the college of your dreams. Now the only thing left is the competitive college admissions process. Persuasive letters of recommendation can tip the scale in your favor by showing what sets you apart from other bright, hardworking applicants vying for a spot.

How to Request a Letter of Recommendation for College

Most colleges require two or three letters of recommendation from adults who know you well, such as a teacher, friend, colleague, boss, band director, coach or guidance counselor. Ask people who can provide specific examples of your unique accomplishments, character, motivation, values, leadership and interpersonal skills. Although it may seem intimidating to ask for a recommendation letter, remember that those close to you care about your future. Also, teachers routinely write recommendation letters, so make sure you ask at least one month before the deadline to give them time to do a good job.

You may ask for a letter of recommendation in person or in writing. Either way, explain that you are applying to college, and you would like that person to write you a favorable letter of recommendation. You may want to add why you chose that particular school.

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Read more: How to Ask a Teacher for a Letter of Recommendation

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for College Sample

It helps to figure out exactly what your letter of recommendation request should look like. Then, you know what to write. In yours, you can say something like:

Dear Mr. Teacher,

I am applying to State College. As someone who knows me well, I thought you would be the perfect person to ask for a letter of recommendation. I learned so much in your history classes, and you may recall my active participation.

You mentioned State College has a great history department with opportunities for undergraduate student research. State College prefers letters of recommendation from teachers who can give examples of the student’s scholarly potential and special achievements.

Perhaps, you could talk about the civil rights documentary I created and entered in the National History Day Contest, for instance. I attached my resume listing extracurricular activities that you could also mention. If you could find time to write a letter that is due in six weeks, I would really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Sincerely,

John Doe

Depending on the school’s application procedures, you should provide a stamped envelope addressed to the college, or explain that the college admissions office will email a link with instructions for uploading the letter. Don’t forget to send a thank you note to your teacher for the letter of recommendation.

Read more: Contents of a Letter of Recommendation

Why Is a Letter of Recommendation Important?

If you just send a quick email asking for a recommendation letter, the teacher may be more inclined to write a generic letter, simply stating you are a good student. Although it seems like a lot of work, taking the time to ask for recommendation letters pays off. In fact, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), letters of recommendation carry “substantial weight” when admissions officers weed through the 20,000 applications received each year.

Letters of recommendation help the school decide if you fit the profile of other students at that school, not just in test scores and grades. Colleges seek well-rounded students who can effectively communicate, lead and make a difference in the world, if given the chance.

Read more: How to Write a Letter of Recommendation for a Student Applying for College or University Admission

About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students who holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Minnesota State University. Dr. Dowd has also led many administrative offices such as affirmative action, women’s center and student conduct. She enjoys teaching, writing and advising students on how to succeed in college. Dr. Dowd's literary accomplishments include published research, training materials and hundreds of practical online articles. Her writing reflects years of professional and personal life experience, including parenting.