Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

Sheila Smith

Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

Make sure you approach your teachers early. The best recommenders will often have the most recommendations to write, and they will be inundated with requests around the time that students are applying to college. Give your teachers a heads-up well in advance so that they have plenty of time to think about you and write your letter.

Mark Smith

Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

Choose teachers that know you well.  Getting an A+ in a class will not necessarily mean you’ll get a good recommendation.  That said, the class in which you’ve done well and in which you have a good relationship with the teacher is naturally the best option.  If you’re unsure, you may even want to schedule a meeting with the teacher outside of class to discuss your progress in the course, as well as your college interests and aspirations.

Ronald Smith

Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

Give your teachers something to work with.  Don’t just expect them to know your life and academic history by rote.  Along with the official letter forms, provide them with a resume or a mini-bio, and make sure to include important elements like Honors/AP/IB classes you’ve taken,  extracurriculars you’re involved in, major essays or projects you’ve done for their class, a list of classes you’ve taken with them (if there are more than one) and when, any awards you’ve won (history day, debate team, etc), what sort of college program(s) you are applying to, and any leadership roles you’ve held, such as clubs, sports, lab groups, and more.

Tammy Smith

Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

Give your teachers the basic facts, which they can use to strengthen the points they’re making about your character.  If your biology teacher wants to write that you take initiative, it looks good if she can back that up with a comment, say, about how you led a project to the wetlands the month before.  If your math teacher is also your tennis coach, help him remember that you were a Math League participant as well as a state-qualifier in Doubles.

Wendy Smith

Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

When you hand them your information, ask your teachers if they have any questions for you, or if they’d like to see any papers you’ve written for their classes.  They might remember something that could help with your recommendation — something that you may not have thought about.  Make sure they have any and all information they might want at their disposal.  You don’t want half-page letters; give them enough to write about.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

At certain times of year, professors - especially popular profs - are bound to be flooded with requests for recommendation letters. After all, students apply for internships, research positions, study abroad programs, transfers and grad school. There is no better way of getting a recommendation early than getting to know the professor early in the semester; do this by stopping by at office hours or adding insightful comments during class. If you think you'll need a recommendation from a professor from a previous semester, get that request in early. Don't get stuck in the pile! Remember, writing recommendations is part of a professor's job. The professor will remember you if you have shown that professor that you care about his or her subject and are responsible about getting your own submissions in on time.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

The best way to make sure that all of your recommendation letters are submitted by your teachers in a timely fashion is to show courtesy to your recommenders by informing them of your requests as early as possible. Ask them if they would write you a letter as soon as possible -- even as early as the spring of your junior year. Provide them with the requisite information as soon as possible. If you are applying through the Common Application, let your recommenders know this so that they can choose to submit their letters electronically.

Brian D. Crisp
Founder and President Crisp Consulting + Coaching; Burton College Tours

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

In the arena of sport, speed is often a desired trait. In the arena of college applications and selective college admission, thoughtful approaches are desired. Focusing on strategies and outcomes will be beneficial. Although speed is never suggested, you can streamline the process by identifying the teachers that will write the most effective and positive letters of recommendations. When teachers agree to write your letters, be prepared and have copies of your transcripts and activities sheet for their reference. Creating a calendar with deadlines will also keep the process moving in a timely direction. This process may not be fast, yet it will be effective and assist in realizing your admission goals.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Ask for the recommendation early!

The best way for speeding up the process is to get in the queue early. If you are asking a popular teacher for a recommendation then you need to make certain you are not only asking for it in plenty of time but that you are one of the first to do so.

Helen Cella

Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

Providing teachers with a resume and reminding them of details helps