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When Is The Perfect Time To Ask For A College Recommendation Letter?

A college recommendation letter can help earn you admittance into the college you have been dreaming about. Don’t let this one important task slip through the cracks. Recommendation letters can be challenging because they require dependence on the person writing the letter. Make the process easier on you and your letter writer by asking in the best possible way.

Ask Early

Keep in mind that if the person writing your letter is a teacher, counselor, or someone else affiliated with the school, they are likely to be asked to write letters for multiple students. The more time you offer them, the more likely they are to spend quality time on your letter. USNews suggests asking five or six weeks before the letter is due.  

The Initial Ask

To start, ask in person, if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation. If it is someone you don’t see very often, it is ok to write an email or call.Try to find a person that can attest to your interest and commitments to the fields of your interest. For example, if you want to pursue a science degree, try to choose a science teacher, or if you want to show community involvement ask a volunteer coordinator. Don’t ask a friend or family member that has no other connection with you. You need to display your strengths in an unbiased manner.

Formal Letter

Once they have agreed to write the letter, send them a formal letter that includes all of the necessary details. If the recommendation should be submitted online, it is appropriate to send the information via email. Be sure to include all of the necessary links and clearly state the deadline. When the letter must be mailed, give your letter writer instructions and include an addressed and stamped envelope so that the letter can be sent easily.


It is ok to send the writer a reminder email that is worded gently and gratefully. Send this reminder at least a week before the due date. Waiting until the day before the letter is due won’t be helpful.

Plan B

You may also want to plan several options. No one is obligated to write the letter. A teacher may be too busy to write something thoughtful and helpful. Don’t be offended if someone says no, simply ask the next appropriate person as soon as possible.

Stay Proactive

The process of recommendation letters may feel awkward, but they are an important part of your application process. Be proactive, even if it feels uncomfortable to ask. Remember the people in your life want to see you succeed.


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Michael Romano has been helping students prep for the SAT for almost 20 years. He employs a hybrid approach that blends private SAT tutoring with group practice tests. This ideal mixture of focused instruction and real-world test-taking results is huge score increases for his students, and his Los Altos SAT Prep center functions as a calming environment in which students can learn the ins and outs of a stressful exam. For a candid description of his services, click here to browse Mr. Test Prep’s extensive collection of student and parent testimonials.

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