How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation During COVID-19
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How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation During COVID-19

Whether you’re applying for summer programs like UC COSMOS or you’re getting ready to apply for colleges this summer, getting letters of recommendation is a standard part of any application process. Things used to be easier, but that was prior to COVID-19. For one, building relationships with teachers was a lot easier in person. Secondly, asking them was usually as easy as showing up before class or waiting a bit after class. So, how does one effectively ask for letters during a pandemic when everything is virtual and online? Here are our few tips:

Choose the Right Teacher

Choosing the right teachers is not about selecting a teacher from STEM because you are applying to a STEM program. In fact, most of the time, it has little to nothing to do with that. Sure, you may have some programs that openly prefer or even require a STEM teacher’s letter. But almost all the time, a program is trying to just gauge someone else’s perspective about you, be it a teacher or a coach. 

Here are three questions to follow when thinking about who to ask for a letter of recommendation:

  1. Who likes you the best?
    • Who likes you the best is most likely to write you a letter.
  2. Who knows you the best?
    • Who knows you the best can speak towards specifics rather than general character traits.
  3. Who writes the best?
    • Who writes the best can make the strongest impressions with language.

Pro-tip: You can create a make-shift rubric to rate and prioritize your teachers along the above three questions.

Schedule Time to Talk

Before class. After class. On a weekend. Whatever will work, but remember to try getting in the habit of doing this before you need a letter of recommendation. You want to get to know your teachers if possible; they have lived interesting – and at times – extraordinary lives. Take it upon yourself to schedule time to learn about them and to get advice about your life and direction. Not to mention, tips for the upcoming quiz or essay as well 😉

If you don’t have time to build a relationship with your teacher, then schedule a time to talk anyway. When asked about what, simply respond that you’d like to get some advice on how to learn better for class and about summer plans. Just 5 minutes should be enough.

Be Grateful. Be Helpful.

The first feeling you should have in this entire process is the word “Thanks.” You want to and should be really grateful for your teacher’s time. Chances are, they aren’t getting paid to do this extra work and you are probably not the only one asking for a letter of recommendation. Be thankful and show you are grateful.

Whether or not your teacher agrees, still say “thank you.” If a teacher does agree, however, make their life easier by sending him/her a short number of talking points. This will provide the teacher with some more context about yourself and even something to copy and paste on your letter of recommendation. Thereby, granting you some control over what is written about you.

Recap & Conclusion:

Choose the right teacher. Schedule a time to talk and ask for advice. Be grateful no matter the teacher’s response and be helpful by sending talking points. Remember to ask yourself the three important questions when thinking about who to ask for a letter of recommendation:

  • Who likes you the best?
  • Who knows you the best?
  • Who writes the best?

We hope that this provides some valuable insight into how to release some of the stress you may have while making your college application profile even stronger. We specialize in youth mentorship and college counseling. From 8th grade to 12th, we have you covered for any stage in your high school career. Schedule a free consultation with us here.

We are always posting more helpful tips and tricks to help reduce the stress of college application season. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube.

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