Zionsville Community High School

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How to get Effective Letters of Recommendation

Most schools require only the counselor’s recommendation.  Recommendations are not used by public universities except for unusual circumstances (special talent in fine arts curriculum, serious illness, a marginal application or foreign born).   Highly competitive schools will also require recommendations from teachers who know you and your work well (preferably 11th and 12th grade teachers).  The most helpful recommendations provide descriptions of your skills and work in the classroom, your comparative ability to other students, along with examples and anecdotes illustrating those skills and personal qualities.  You are strongly encouraged to discuss these with your teachers and counselors before you request the letter..

1.  When submitting an application that requires a letter of recommendation allow at least two weeks for the teacher to write it.  If you request a letter near the end of a grading period, allow three weeks.  This is in addition to the two weeks of processing time required after the application is logged in at guidance.

2.  Supply the teacher or counselor with some information about yourself.  (Brag Sheet) Colleges use these letters to get to know more about you so make sure the person writing the letter knows about you.  There are forms available in the guidance office which you may use to fill out important information needed for effective letters.

3.  Many recommendations may be completed by teachers online, so make certain you have a valid professional email address from your teachers who will be writing your letters of recommendation.  If you or your recommenders prefer to submit letters via hard copy, make sure you supply the teacher with an envelope along with the recommendation form from the college or Common Application (if required). Personally pick up the letter from the teacher OR provide the mailing address on the envelope so that your recommender may put the letter directly in the mail. Teachers may give you the recommendation in a sealed envelope – if so, do not open it.  Just put it in with your application and send on to the college.

4.  Ask the teacher to keep a copy as you may need additional recommendations at a later time.

5.  Follow up with the teacher before the deadline to make certain the letter has been sent on time.  A personal “thank you” note to the teacher after the letter has been sent is always a good idea.