College Corner: Letters of Recommendation

Ashley Smith, culture editor

Letters of recommendation are an important piece to the college application process. They help a college to determine if you are a good fit for their school based on the viewpoints of teachers, counselors, or coaches that have known you the best over the four years at Edina High School.

It’s best to start asking for college recommendations at the end of junior year or the fall of senior year to give your teachers enough time to form a complete opinion about you and write the letter. U.S. History teacher Amy Kampf said, “I usually have 20 to 30 students ask for letters of recommendation each year [and] it takes me about an hour to write each one.”

When considering who to ask to write a letter that could seriously affect your future, think about which teachers know you best. It’s probably not a good idea to ask a teacher from sophomore year to write a letter of recommendation because colleges want to get a picture of who you are at the time you are applying rather than 2 years ago.

Make sure to ask someone who will give you a good recommendation. Kampf said “If I’m going to put something negative in a student’s recommendation letter, I will usually tell them. Like if they are really good with participation but never turn in their homework, I’ll tell them that’s what I’m going to say in the letter.” To avoid this awkward moment, make sure you pick a teacher in whose class you’ve succeeded. If you didn’t stand out in any class, or you’re unsure who to ask, your math or English teachers are usually good candidates according to The College Board.

In order to make sure a teacher writes a good recommendation, communicate with the teacher what you thought your strength was in their class and why you chose them to write your letter. Kampf usually holds a meeting with each student to get ideas for their letter of recommendation. “As much as I love my students, I can’t remember everything that they’ve done, so I will interview them to refresh my memory and help personalize their letters,” she commented.

Finally, if a teacher agrees to write a letter of recommendation (most often they will), make sure you give them everything they need to do so. If a college requires the letter to be sent in the mail, like Georgetown University, make sure you provide the teacher with an envelope, stamp, and address in which to send it with. Keep in mind that this teacher is putting in extra work to write your letter so you should do everything you can to accommodate them!