September 19, 2013
Asking for Letters of Recommendations: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Asking a teacher to write you a letter of recommendation can be a daunting task. For one thing, most of the time, you will never actually see what they write about you, so there is a lot of trust that goes into the process. And two, they could say no, which might make you wonder if they were actually too busy, or if they just didn’t have enough nice things to say about you to fill up an entire page!
Here, we will lay out some tips for asking for a letter of recommendation:
•Ask a teacher who you have formed a connection with to write you a recommendation, whose course in which you have worked exceptionally hard, and/or whose subject you are passionate about. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the teacher of the course in which you received the highest grade. Sometimes, the best recommendations are the ones that are able to truly convey the hard work and dedication a student has put into a class.
•Provide your recommender with a resume, transcript, and anything else that will be helpful for them to personalize your recommendation.
•Have variety in your recommenders. While we only require one letter of recommendation from an academic source for most majors at USC, if you do choose to submit more than one, you should ask someone that can highlight a different aspect of your personality.
•Forgetting the thank you note! You recommenders spend a lot of time on these letters. Don’t forget to show them that you appreciate their efforts.
•Asking your recommender a few days in advance of the due date for a letter. Remember that many teachers (and counselors especially) will have to write many letters during the Fall months, and that leaving your request until the last minute will not make them very happy.
•Submitting ten letters of recommendation! Or even five, for that matter. Again, we only require one letter of recommendation, so be mindful of how many extra letters you send. Frankly, multiple letters rarely offer any fresh information.
So remember, give your recommenders plenty of advanced warning, ask someone whose class you’ve worked hard in, be thoughtful in the number of additional letters you submit, and don’t forget to show your appreciation!