When applying to college, most schools will ask for recommendation letters from your teachers and/or guidance counselors as part of your application. This recommendation letter gives colleges admissions offices an opportunity to see how other adults in academia think of you as a student. That being said, these letters should not just shed light on your academic abilities, but also your personality and how you've added value to the class overall.

Most students probably have an idea of who they want to ask for a recommendation letter, but when it comes time to actually ask for it, there is a certain way to go about it.

Why Do You Need a Letter of Recommendation for College Admission?

The biggest reason that you need a letter of recommendation for college admission is simply because it is something that schools ask for. Amid test scores, GPAs and transcripts, colleges need a way to understand a little more about the individual applicant behind all of these numbers.

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Colleges want to know that they are not just accepting an applicant because they did well on the SAT. As you will be a representative of the school, admissions needs to know that you possess the values and qualities that they expect their students to have. A good recommendation letter can speak to this.

Who to Ask for a College Recommendation Letter

According to PrepScholar, most colleges ask for one recommendation letter from a teacher and one from a guidance counselor. At other schools, the application may request that you submit two letters of recommendation from a teacher, one from a guidance counselor and perhaps even one from an adult that you've worked with in some capacity outside of school – for example, a coach or volunteer organizer.

Figuring out who to ask for your college recommendation letter can be hard. You may have a handful of favorite teachers, but are they really the best candidates for writing your recommendation letter? For instance, if you want to declare a major in biology at a school that specializes in the sciences, then you might not want to ask your English teacher for a recommendation.

Ask a teacher that knows you well, has experience teaching and can write you a strong recommendation for the program and school you're applying for. It's also advisable that you ask for a recommendation from a teacher that teaches in one of the core subjects, such as math, social studies, science and English.

When to Ask for a College Recommendation Letter

Teachers are busy, and no one likes to find out they have an assignment to complete without enough notice. It's also very likely that you're not the only student whom your teacher needs to write a recommendation letter for. Therefore, you should give those you are asking plenty of time to write a recommendation letter for you.

These days, many teachers may create their own deadline for students. If you want a recommendation letter from them, you have to ask before their deadline and give them what they need to write a recommendation letter by then too. Other teachers are more flexible.

All this considered, it's still polite to give teachers a heads up at least four weeks before your application is due. Therefore, check when your own deadlines are and try to ask your teacher as early as possible.

How to Ask for a College Recommendation Letter

Guidance counselors are already accustomed to writing recommendation letters for students, as it's essentially part of their job. But, it's a good idea to meet with your counselor often throughout the college application process (and even before) so that they really get to know you.

For teachers, it's a little bit different. Though there's no wrong or right way to ask a teacher for a college recommendation letter, there are certain strategies that are considered more mature and professional than others. First and foremost, you should never just assume that your teacher will be willing to write a college recommendation letter for you.

Nowadays, a majority of students may ask their teacher for a recommendation letter via email. This is a great option if email is something you know that your teacher uses regularly. While there's nothing wrong with asking your teacher this way, the best way to ask your teacher for a recommendation letter is to do it in person.

To do this, come early or stay after class one day, and ask your teacher, "I wanted to see if you would be willing to write my recommendation letter for college?" If the teacher is keen, they will say "yes" right then and there, or ask you to schedule a meeting with them when they have more time to discuss it.

How to Ask or a Letter of Recommendation via Email Sample

Teachers typically have correspondence with their students via email and it's usually one of the fastest and most convenient ways to get in touch with your teacher. To ask via email, you can say something like:

"Dear __,

Hope you are doing well. I'm very excited to tell you that this semester I will be applying to several colleges, including _, , and _. In college, I hope to study and eventually become a ___._

As you probably already know, I am required to submit a teacher's recommendation with my application. I would be very grateful if you could write my recommendation letter, because _.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you soon,


Teachers want to know why you are asking them for a recommendation. Why are you choosing them to write it as opposed to another teacher? Is it because you liked their class? Because you value what they've taught you over the year? Whatever it is, let them know.

What to Provide When Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

Even if a teacher agrees to write you a college recommendation letter, you're expected to either write to them or meet with them regarding the nature of the letter.

While teachers generally have a lot of experience writing these, it's still different for each student. They need to know more details about what your plans are for college and what you feel makes you stand out as a student. Then, they will add their own thoughts and observations around that.

Additionally, you should provide your teacher with information on how to submit the letter. They may need to submit directly to the school, and you must provide them with the link in order to be able to do that. Otherwise, you might want to consider providing them with pre-labeled envelopes to make their job easier. This could mean you are waiving your opportunity to read over the recommendation letter before you send it, but that's okay. You can trust that your teacher wrote it well, and according to CollegeBoard, most admissions counselors prefer it this way because the letter is more authentic when the student cannot see it.

What to Do After Asking for Your Recommendation Letter

Once you leave your recommendation letter in the hands of your teacher, you can now focus on other aspects of your college application. That being said, don't get too distracted. It's important to check-in with your teacher and make sure that they've submitted the recommendation letter by the deadline, or they are at least on track to do so. If you have about a week until your recommendation letter is due and you still haven't heard from your teacher, it's okay to approach them about it and remind them of the deadline. In most cases, teachers will be on top of this, even if that means a few reminders.

Lastly, once you know for sure that your teacher has submitted the letter of recommendation, you should make time to write a thank you note and possible include a gift. It doesn't have to be expensive or big, but just a thoughtful one. A little note telling them that you appreciate their support and perhaps a $5 gift card to Starbucks should do the trick. When you get your college decisions in the mail and you find that you've been accepted to a school or schools that your teacher wrote you a recommendation for, you should absolutely tell them where you got in and where you plan on going. They will appreciate the gesture.

About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.