Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation

By Tasha

Asking for teacher recommendations is awkward enough, but what do you do when your teachers aren't even in the same state as you? A Sparkler asks...

I'm a high school senior and i'm starting to apply to colleges. I just moved to a different state and go to a different high school now. I was wondering how I would get recommendation letters from teachers at my old high school. Like, how would they fill out teacher evaluation forms, and how would those forms get to colleges? I have to get this stuff from my old school because teachers at my new school dont know me so they cant write anything. I cant personally go to my old school either since its really far from where I live now.
I need help!!

Thanks for your question. No doubt about it, getting recommendations from teachers can be a little nerve-wracking, especially when those teachers are in another state. But don't worry. Teachers are accustomed to getting approached about writing recommendations. What you want to do is make sure your recommenders get everything they need to write—and send—a stellar letter.

1. Send an email. You say you can’t personally go back to your old school because of distance. No problem: just send your old teachers an email. Let them know how you are doing at your new school, say that you are in the process of completing college applications, mention your academic interests, and then ask them if they would be willing to recommend you.

2. Ask for your teachers' preferences. Once teachers have agreed to write recommendations for you, be courteous and ask them how they would like to receive the forms. Offer to scan and send the documents over email, or send them via snail mail—whichever they prefer.

3. Send the materials right away. At least a month ahead of time, send:

  • The forms
  • The postage they'll need to mail in the forms
  • The address to which they should mail the forms
  • A letter/email thanking them for agreeing to write your recommendation, and reminding them of your academic and extracurricular interests (this isn't being pushy--it's being helpful. Teachers know hundreds of students, and even if they remember you vividly, they might not know that you're the president of SADD and a member of the show choir. Tell them!)

4. Send a friendly reminder. Roughly two weeks before the recommendation is due, send a cordial email reminding your teachers where they need to send your recommendation and reiterating the date the letters are due by. Be polite and mindful of their hectic schedules. Remember, they are the ones doing you the favor. Your email might read something like this:

Hi Mr. Green!

I hope you're having a great October. I've narrowed down my Halloween costume to either Sigmund Freud or a corpse bride. School is still going well, although I miss everyone at NM!

I'm sure you have a ton of recommendations to keep track of, so I thought I'd send a quick reminder that Barnard asks early decision applicants to send everything in no later than 11/15. The mailing address is:

Barnard College
3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027

Thank you SO MUCH for agreeing to write my recommendation. I know you're super busy, and I really, really appreciate the time you're taking to help me.

Best wishes,


5. Send a thank-you note. Another nice tip—make sure to send your recommenders a thank-you note once the letters have been mailed.

Good luck!

Got a question for Tasha? Email advice@sparknotes.com.

Topics: teacher recommendations, college admissions

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