When submitting a college application, one of the most important components is the recommendation letter from one of your teachers. The reason being is that colleges want to get to know you for more than just statistics and grades. A solid recommendation letter can show college admissions what sort of candidate you are and if you are the right fit for them.
The most common mistake seniors make in asking a teacher for a recommendation letter however, is that they don’t have a real personal relationship with that teacher. This could lead to the teacher writing a very generic letter about what sort of student you are, rather than a well thought-out letter about what sort of person you are. Consider the following advice to receive a strong recommendation letter from your teachers.
1. Start as Early as Freshmen Year
It’s important to build a strong bond and get to know your teachers before asking them for a recommendation letter. So start early—as early as your first year in high school. Pick about one or two different teachers that you like during your freshmen year and continue to build relationships with them, even after your courses with them are over. Even if you are just popping your head in their classrooms every once in awhile to say hello, this can help build a relationship with your teachers.
The worst thing you can do is wait until your senior year to find a teacher to ask for a recommendation letter. Why? Because for one, all the other seniors are asking around for recommendation letters and you may not be a priority for that teacher and two, you will end up with a super generic letter that will bore the college admission officers to sleep.
2. Do Something for Them
Doing something for your teachers doesn’t mean that you have to buy them expensive gifts or bribe them for a recommendation letter. Ask your teachers if they need help. Often times, they will say no, but it is nice just to ask. Sometimes, just staying an extra 2 minutes after class to help wipe the blackboard or helping to hand out paper to fellow classmates can go a long way.
3. Talk about Your Personal Life
Teachers have normal lives too and they have been in your shoes before. They understand what you are going through as a student and as a teenager. You don’t have to spill every detail of your life to your teachers, but it is good to open up to them about things outside of school (if you are at that comfort level of your relationship with your teachers).
Talk to them about your extracurricular activities and maybe even family life. These sort of things help them get a better understanding of who you are and the better they get to know you, the more personalized your recommendation letter will be.