Class of 2022 – Juniors – It’s time to Ask For a Letter of Recommendation!

Guest blogger Harriet E. Katz is the owner/CEO of Creative Kid College Coach.

This is a critical step to improve your college application!

With the lack of standardized testing, colleges are putting extensive emphasis on how they evaluate a student’s fit for their school. An impactful letter of recommendation has taken on an even more significant role in helping admissions understand the applicant. Here are my suggestions for approaching a teacher for a letter of recommendation. But first, a few definitions:

  • An academic letter of recommendation needs to be from a core subject (English, math, science, social studies, or foreign language). You will want at least two recommenders and preferably at least one from your junior year.
  • “Other recommenders” are either those who teach a specific class that your particular application requires (such as the Chapman Creative Supplement for a film applicant that requires a separate letter of recommendation). Other recommenders are sometimes allowed in the Common App and can be employers, coaches, clergy, or even peers. Your AP Studio Art teacher can write an “other” letter of recommendation, but their letter does not satisfy the requirement for an academic teacher.

When to ask: 

  • Ask your teachers before the end of your junior year, preferably in the spring and long before finals week.

 How to ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation:

  • Preferably, you ask a teacher who knows you, but with remote learning, this can understandably be more difficult. Start by setting a time to meet. If you are still learning remotely, you can request a meeting during the teacher’s office hours. Asking in person is highly recommended.
  • Ask the teacher if they would like you to fill out a form to give them more information about you. If you are a performer or artist, give them your resume to know what you do outside of their classroom.

What to do after asking them to write a letter for you:

 After the meeting where you ask them if they will write a letter for you, follow up with an email where you include more information:

  • Tell them why you are asking them to be your recommender.
  • Give them a list of the schools where you will apply and the earliest deadline (this may have to come a bit later)
  • Explain what major you will pursue in college.
  • Tell them what you are most proud of in terms of your work in their class. You may want to tie this characteristic to what you intend to study in college. Although it may seem like a stretch, learning certain concepts in biology could actually help you play a particular role or create a type of artwork.
  • Describe for them a challenge you experienced in their classroom that they might not be aware of. What characteristics did you use to meet that challenge?
  • Let them know what you found most impactful about what you learned in their class. If there is a special lesson, make sure that teacher knows about it.
  • Give them insight into how you view yourself. How do you identify? What matters the most to you about your identity? Who do you want to become by pursuing your education in a college setting?

Asking your “other” recommenders:

  • You may need to ask via email if you aren’t going to be seeing them. Follow the same recommendations above and make sure to give them enough background information so that they know why you are asking them and what you hope to achieve in college.


 It can take upwards of three hours to write a letter of recommendation for you. Make sure that you thank your recommender and be specific about your gratitude for their generosity.

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