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?

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Recommendations

The only way I know to help move the reference process along is to provide the recommender with a resume/bio sheet to work from. Often the teacher doesn't know you beyond their classroom and it is helpful to give them some context to work with. By giving your reference plenty of lead time, you should feel confident that the result will be beneficial. No one likes to feel like they are under the gun, so don't set up this dynamic with the person you are asking to do you a favor. Make your deadline/timeline clear, touch base in a few days for a status update, but don't pester the person.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

How well do you write when rushed?

Securing solid recommendation letters requires advance notice.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

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

Asking early is the smartest way to do this. If you ask your recommenders during the spring of your junior year, it gives them the time to write the letter. If you waited and it is now due to the college soon, the best way to speed it up is to ask the person very nicely and acknowledge that you know you are asking later than you should, and that you are very sorry and appreciative. Give the person information about yourself to help them with the letter such as a resume with your activities and also a sheet of paper explaining what was important to you about the class you had with him/her. Other information the teacher might find helpful includes: academic areas of interest (majors), summer plans, career aspirations, and colleges you are considering.

Reena Gold Kamins
Founder College, Career & Life, LLC.

Ask for recommendation letters at the end of junior year.

Some teachers now request that students notify them at the end of their junior year, if they want to have a letter of recommendation. This allows the teacher to write the letter over the summer. This is beneficial for the teacher because she has fewer things on her plate; and, it's beneficial for the student because his performance is freshest in the teacher's mind.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Don’t Rush Things. Good Recommendations Take Time.

Speed is not necessarily of the essence or even a valuable thing for an applicant to pursue, because ultimately the schools want to hear from people who really know the student--indeed, if they have had the chance to interact in multiple settings--in class, in co-curriculars, in clubs, what have you—then that can make for a more fully developed picture. Too, a teacher that may have had you more than once, especially as an underclassman and then again as a senior, can offer some valuable insight into how you have developed, and that is all to the good. All of this takes time. Yes, it is OK to think about who might be a good person to do your recommendations, but there is no need to rush the decision or get a premature letter.

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Speeding up the process

I don't think you can get the results you desire by doing things quickly or last minute. The best way to get great letters of recommendation is to plan ahead. Decide junior year who you want to ask and prepare your teacher or other recommender by providing a resume and a sample of work from their class. Francine Schwartz M.A., LPC, NCC Founder and President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Jeana Robbins
Counselor

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

It is important to carefully plan who should write your letters of recommendation. This planning should allow your writers an allotted period of time. Two weeks is typically an acceptable period of time. Certain circumstances may require that students speed up this process. When this is necessary, students should be sure to express the urgency to teachers and recognize that teachers may not be able to write as powerful of a letter considering the time constraint. Some teachers may not be able to write a letter under a time constraint because of other obligations. Because of this, students should have alternate teachers to consider asking.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

Recommendation Process

A student can have a timely recommendation by first asking the teachers, counselors etc near the end of your junior year if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation and what would they need from you to do so. Typically, they will say a resume of all of your activities and involvements in school and in the community. Remember most teachers see you in one light (their classroom) and that is not sufficient to write a great letter of recommendation. I require a resume and a seperate list of activities with your role and an accomplishment that you are proud of in that role. Remember the people writing recommendations are being asked by hundreds of students and if you do not want a template letter than give them a complete picture of who you are early enough so they will not feel rushed and can write your letter not a generic letter.

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University

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

Sure. But be respectful in how you approach your high school teachers. Give them gentle reminders. And for God's sake, don't have your parents call or email them. You need to be the grown up and do it yourself. You should approach your teacher at the end of your Junior Year. Be proactive. When you get back to school in the fall of your senior year, schedule a meeting with the teacher and talk to them about writing the letter and if you could provide them with any information that would help them. Then, thank them.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

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

I am now working as an independent college advisor, but as a former high school Guidance Counselor, I realize how unfair it is for students to ask for recommendation letters at the last minute. The person you are asking for the recommendation will undoubtedly want to write a good letter that will work to your advantage in the application process, but the recommender also has other commitments, has probably been asked for recommendation letters from other students, and may not have time to do your recommendation justice if you don't permit him/her to have sufficient time to formulate the letter. Don't wait until the last minute to make these recommendation requests! A teacher recommendation will focus primarily on the experience that the teacher had with you in his/her class, but it could facilitate the process somewhat if you provide your CV/resume along with your recommendation request. Make sure that the recommender knows exactly how to deal with the recommendation, whether that involves providing a stamped addressed envelope, asking that the recommendation be given to the Guidance Counselor to submit with other materials, or submitting the recommendation online, as is now commonly done.