Applying for College: Recommendations

Strong letters of recommendation can differentiate you from others among a large pool of applicants. Teacher recommendations can offer solid examples of your abilities in a subject area, while counselor recommendations can provide a sense of how you stand out within your class at school. The earlier you build relationships with your recommenders, the better, as they can be excellent advocates for you on your road to college.

How many recommendations?

For the National College Match application, you will need to obtain three recommendations:

  • Two from teachers (preferably in core academic subjects)
  • One from your counselor (submitted as part of the Secondary School Report)

If you are interested in submitting additional letters, check whether the colleges you are applying to accept them. (Note: You cannot submit additional recommendations with your QuestBridge National College Match application, but if you become a Finalist, you may be able to include the letter with the additional materials you submit directly to the colleges you ranked.)

Which teachers to ask?

Use the criteria below when selecting teachers to ask for recommendations. If you are unable to check off two or more boxes, consider asking another teacher for a recommendation.

  • Did they teach you in your junior year?
  • Did they teach you in a core academic subject?
  • Did you do well in their class, or improve dramatically?
  • Did they agree to write the letter without hesitation?
  • Do they know you outside of the classroom?
  • Do they have time to finish a letter before the deadline?

When to ask?

Your teachers and counselors will be writing recommendations for other students as well, so provide them with ample time to complete your recommendation. In general, you should ask recommenders at least two to three weeks before the deadline -- one month prior or more is preferable.

How to ask?

Asking for a recommendation in-person is always preferable. First, ask if they feel comfortable writing you a strong recommendation. If the answer is no, make sure you have enough time to ask someone else.

Provide your recommenders with a packet of information about yourself, including some combination of the following:

  • A list of colleges to which you are applying
  • An activities resume
  • Your transcript
  • A draft of your college application personal essay (optional)
  • Personal information such as your family situation (optional)
  • “Thank you in advance” note

After asking:

Check back with them to make sure everything’s going well, to see if they have any questions you can answer, and to give them friendly reminders about deadlines.

After the recommendation is submitted, keep your teacher updated about how your college application process turns out.