GUIDE TO LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
Colleges look at letters of recommendation in an attempt to “flesh-out” the picture they get of
you from your application and transcript. They want to know what kind of student you are,
your level of motivation, your ability to articulate yourself in writing or speaking, and your
contribution to the classroom or school community. Your personal statement was your
chance to talk about yourself. This is your chance to have someone else back up what you are
Not all colleges require letters of recommendation with their applications. Read over your
application materials carefully to determine if/what recommendations you need.
Picking the appropriate letter writers:
• Letters can be written by people at La Follette or from the community. Stop and
think about who you think can give the strongest recommendation. If you are
going to do a letter from someone in the community, touch base with your
• Ask a teacher whom you had during your junior or senior year. Are they
comfortable writing you a strong letter of recommendation? If you are concerned
that they may not, you may want to ask someone else.
• In general, letters from academic teachers are viewed as stronger than non-
academic teachers. However, exceptions to this obviously exist. If you are
applying to an art school, then an art teacher can obviously speak to your skills
and talents more than your Science teacher.
• Balance your letters out. Don’t get 2 letters from math teachers unless it fits for
the specific school/program you are applying to.
Asking a staff member for a letter:
• Begin by asking the staff member if s/he would be willing to write you a letter of
recommendation and what you need it for and when you need it by.
• If the staff member says yes, please give him/her the following:
o Letter of Recommendation Information Form- this form should have
information that is relevant for the specific teacher.
o Information, in writing, regarding when each letter is due
o A stamped, addressed envelope to each school you would like the letter
o Any additional forms or paperwork the college/university/ scholarship
committee requests you submit.
o If there is an additional form, there is oftentimes a spot where you can
waive your right to access the letter. If you are waiving your right, please
make sure you sign this part of the form. This is your decision. Some
people feel that a form that a student has waived the right to view is more
• Give teachers plenty of time to write a letter. Many teachers will ask for at least 2
weeks. Remember that you are not the only student asking the teacher for a letter.
The easier and less stressful you make the process for them, the better.
• If you are applying early decision or early action then you need to ask a teacher in
the spring or very early in the fall.
Don’t forget to send your teacher a thank you.