How to Ask for Recommendations

Having recommendations from teachers, counselors, and internship supervisors are great additions to your college admission packet. They can be used to explain away a mistake or show a different side of your personality. You definitely want to add them in. However, asking for a recommendation is a bit tricky. It should be done in a thoughtful, polite manner.
Ask People Who Know You
Before asking anyone for a recommendation, consider your relationship to that person. Even if you are an exceptional student in your math classes but have never really needed to participate or had much interaction with the teacher, then don’t ask that person. The teacher who vaguely knows you will feel uncomfortable giving a recommendation because that person won’t know what to write about you.
The right people to ask for a recommendation are the ones you have spent time with. Struggling in math class and have spent time afterwards asking the teacher for extra tips and help? This is the teacher for you. Excel in history and took on extra assignments for your own personal interest and fun? Ask that person for a recommendation. Are you highly active in any extracurricular activities? Ask the person who oversees the activities. You get the idea.
How to Ask for a Recommendation
The best way to ask for a recommendation is via email. If the person is not comfortable with giving a reference it is easier for the person to decline. Don’t just ask for a reference; give the person a way to decline graciously. In your email ask the person if they think they know you well enough to give you a good reference.
Helping with the Recommendation
Once someone agrees to write a recommendation for you, you actually do have some control over what that person says. Graciously say thank you and tell them that you realize that writing a recommendation takes time, therefore you would like to help them out a bit. Provide a sheet of information about you that the person can use as a reference. If a year ago you had a good interaction with the person and noticed you had impressed that person, mention it. People have short memories and forget easily. They will be happy to have reminders to work off of. Also, this will create a more personal, genuine letter of recommendation, which can only be good for you.
Follow Up
People are busy with their own lives, so it could happen that the person who agreed to write a recommendation for you forgets to do it. Before the person gets started, ask what a reasonable timeline for the person to finish is. Put that deadline in your calendar and make sure you follow up with that person a few days ahead of the timeline.
Also make sure you ask for recommendations way before you need them. People will be annoyed if they are inconvenienced because you procrastinated.

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