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Letters of Recommendation: Asking the Right Teachers


The most important step in requesting letters of recommendation is that you ask the right teachers.  Admissions representatives want to hear insights about what type of student you are and how you are going to contribute to the academic community at their college.  They want to know if you participate in class, complete your assignments and take a leadership role in group projects.  But they also want to know if you go above and beyond the basics of being a good student.
Below are some of the insights that colleges are often looking for.  Think about how you perform in each of your classes and if any of your teachers would be able to describe you as one of these students.
The Intellectually Curious:  Colleges often say they are looking for students who are “intellectually curious”.  What does that mean?  Well, do you ask insightful questions?  Do you not only participate in class discussions, but provide insights that encourage your peers to think of things in a new way.  Do you research a topic beyond what is covered in class and the textbook?
The Helper:  Are you the type of student that helps others in the class?  Some students learn materials better if they teach others.
The Leader, but not the Dominator:  It is great to show that you have leadership skills by taking charge of a group project, but it is important to make sure you don’t take it over.  A true leader is able to bring out the best in everyone in the group, so that everyone contributes to the project in a constructive way.
The Most Improved:  Most students feel that if they have struggled in a class, then they should definitely not ask that teacher for a letter of recommendation, but this could not be further from the truth.  If you have had to work twice as hard as everyone else to succeed in a course, then this could be a great letter of recommendation.
The Motivated to Succeed:  Are you the type of student who asks for help?  Do you often strike up a conversation with your teachers outside of class?  Do you ask for feedback before a paper is due so you can turn in the best work possible?
Now, it is currently the end of October.  If you are still looking for letters of recommendation for November deadlines, you may have to do a little begging!  And don’t forget Juliet’s advice and remember to say “thank you” after your letters have been sent!
Katherine Price
Educational Consultant


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