Acceptance rates at leading colleges have fallen by nearly 50% over the last decade. It’s a tough field to navigate and the academic competition has never been more intense.
So, the question is: how are you going to stand out from the crowd? Having an endless list of exceptional grades on your application will undoubtedly set a good tone, but this simply isn’t enough to distinguish an applicant anymore.
To succeed in the current landscape, you are going to need more than just a few grades on a page to be victorious and secure a place at your dream college. Across the country, there are thousands of hopeful applicants with impeccable grades.
Many others are also likely to be able to list a dozen clubs, councils and bodies that they have been involved in throughout student life. Are you serious about getting into your dream college?
It’s time to rethink your strategy. You need to create a game plan for crafting the perfect application. Letters of recommendation from your teachers should be an essential component of your game plan.
With universities and colleges currently being spoiled for choice, their selection process puts an emphasis on a person’s character to help further distinguish applicants.
It’s hard to replicate a student’s character. After all, everyone is unique, with personality traits and quirks, making us who we are. For this reason, a student’s character becomes an important qualitative metric that educational institutions can use to further distinguish a pool of high-achieving applicants who, on paper, appear almost identical.
So the million-dollar question remains—how do I ask my teachers for college recommendation letters?
Here at Superapplicant, we want to give you three crucial tips to help you secure letters of recommendation from your teachers.
Speak to the teachers who know you best
The last thing you want is a recommendation letter that feels generic. You are looking for highly-personalized pieces of written content, detailing your unique characteristics in the classroom. To find these, you should speak to the teachers who know you best.
You shouldn’t automatically approach a teacher who has given you the highest grade in a subject. Although a recommendation letter from them might be helpful, make sure you seek out the teachers who really understand who you are as a student.
By doing this, you are more likely to receive a recommendation letter with a personal touch. This helps college admissions staff to build a picture in their heads as to what kind of character you are in the classroom.
If you approach academic teachers from your most recent years, they will hopefully be able to refer back to examples of you demonstrating specific qualities in the classroom.
Strategically plan a workflow
Teachers are busy people. They are not going to be able to produce a perfectly-crafted recommendation letter at the drop of a hat. You are going to need to give them some time.
At Superapplicant, we suggest putting together a calendar to map out the process of approaching teachers. This will ensure that you have given them a reasonable amount of time for them to write a letter, without it
affecting your application deadlines.
We would consider a minimum of one month to be a suitable amount of time to wait for a letter of recommendation.
If you have not received a letter by this time, politely follow-up with the teacher. They all have hectic workloads and your calendar should allow for the delays this could bring.
Let teachers know if there's anything you'd like to highlight
With some teachers, there may be an opportunity for you to specifically tell them what you’re looking for in the letter.
College admissions teams treat recommendation letters like a single piece of a larger jigsaw puzzle. They want to understand who you are and a letter helps to piece together the overall picture.
Do you find it hard to sing your own praises? Are there stories of achievement that only a particular teacher could write about?
You should talk to your teachers about the things you would like them to highlight in the letter.
It’s important to remember—teachers are often writing multiple recommendation letters, so it’s easy for them to overlook things that could make a difference to your application.
Letters of recommendation are an important part of the college admissions process, but you'll need more than a few words of praise, especially if you're vying for a spot at a top U.S. college.
If you're looking to apply to a highly competitive U.S. college, consider enrolling in our Admissions Accelerator, a one-of-a-kind program designed to improve students' chances for admission by up to 10x the standard rate.
Learn more about the program here.