Requesting Letters of Recommendation


Lilian Chong, Staff Writer

A letter of recommendation from a current instructor or possibly a previous teacher comes in hand when colleges, internships, or programs try to get an overview of an applicant’s strength or weakness.
These reference letters typically spark the beginning of the process of applying to a college or program. Though they might not be necessary when applying, it is one way that programs get to understand and recognize you through a letter. When applying for almost any private or certain public colleges such as UC Berkeley, a letter of recommendation is required when proceeding through the application process.
Who To Ask
When formally requesting a letter, it is suggested to select a class that you perform well in or have shown growth in and select an instructor that you are compatible with. If you find yourself in a dilemma where you have two instructors to choose from but you only can pick one, note to yourself which instructor relates best to the scope of the program. Science instructors are most likely better to request than history teachers when applying for a science program or a science major for college. When requesting a letter during your senior year, sophomore and junior teachers are the better options to request from; albeit, junior instructors are usually preferable.
How to Request
Plan ahead of time as to whom you would like to request because it is an act of respect and courtesy for your instructor to take his or her time to construct a letter for you. Recommenders typically suggest at least a month in advance for letter preparation.
To avoid tardiness when submitting your letters, try to request as early before the deadline. Avoid taking the chances of emailing or writing a letter to your teacher; instead, schedule a short appointment with your teacher before or after class. This would not only ensure that your teacher will respond to your inquiry more efficiently but also allow you to schedule other days to sit down and structure the letter together. Before leaving your short appointment, ask whether your teacher prefers being reminded or not. Some teachers might be bothered when being reminded.
Requesting as an Underclassman
Underclassmen also have the ability to request a letter of recommendation whether it is for a part-time job, a summer program, or an internship, they are allowed to request as long as they complete the following procedures. Note that an underclassman would tend to prepare less than a student who is most likely in their senior year requesting to apply for their college entrance. For an underclassman to simply prepare for a letter of rec., they would have to print out a packet that is referred to as a Summer Program Rec Letter Data Packet. This request log is located on an underclassman’s Naviance student home page. The link should direct the student to a page where they can access the data packet and print the pages out.
After completing the packet and reviewing the data with their counselor, they would have to submit it to the Counselor of the Day desk. In order to create the perfect, personalized letter, this packet must be submitted at least three weeks prior to the deadline of when the recommendation is due. This would allow your counselor to be able to schedule an interview with you so that you can create a personalized touch to your letter.
Requesting as an Upperclassman
Considering basic tips for an upperclassman to request a letter, Ms. Fitts, a college and career counselor at AHS recommends that “juniors in their second semester should request earlier for their letter of recs. They should notify their teachers prior to the school year ending so that their instructors would be able to jot down some notes on whether that student performs diligently or participates often during class discussions.” Also, “It’s a great heads-up for a teacher to know that he or she would have to write a letter for that student requesting. This would allow them to take the semester to kind of understand that student’s behavioral role in the classroom,” adds Ms. Fitts. Though the process for seniors to request a letter of rec. is heavily involved, consider planning early of how you would request so that you would avoid delaying the process of submitting the actual letter.
Thanking For Their Time
After all, teachers have the option to reject or accept the request from a student so always gratify them for accepting the time to create a letter for you. During the process of constructing the letter, you should thank them three times. One is when they accept your request, the second time is when they finish completing your letter, and the last time should happen when you hear that you got accepted or denied from the program. Even when there are negative outcomes of being denied from a program, you should always set a positive example by thanking them once again. Failing to promise a thank you to your instructor would likely not guarantee another recommendation from that instructor again.
Considering gifts, Mr. Monden, a Biology instructor at AHS suggests, “You do not need to thank the teacher with lavish gifts unless you feel it is appropriate. We don’t write better ones for the kids that give us big gifts than we do for the ones that give us a really well written, heart-felt thank you card with a nice message in it. ‘Thoughtful’ is always better than ‘costs a lot’.”
In the end, a letter of recommendation does not depend only on your application but also depends on your respect towards your teachers. Always consider being mindful of your behaviors and conduct toward your instructors who are willing to provide their time and effort to your letter. After contemplating these suggestions, requesting a letter of recommendation, after all, should not be considered as an overwhelming, inconvenient process.

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