Guide for How To Ask a Teacher for a Last Minute Recommendation

It’s like having that nightmare: Your college applications are due today and you haven’t completed any of them. Except, it’s not a nightmare. It’s real life, it’s almost the deadline, and you don’t have a teacher recommendation yet. Here is a quick and easy guide to locking that recommendation:

Step 1: Breathe

You’re ok. Everything is going to be fine, especially if you go to a very large public school. It’s not great that this happened, but at large schools in particular, things do get lost. Colleges understand that, so you have a bit of leeway.

Step 2: Be Humble

You are about to ask a teacher for a very big favor. Keep that in mind. In a perfect world, you would scrutinize over years of teacher evaluations to zero in on the perfect recommender who will eloquently speak about why you are the greatest student to ever roam the hallways. This is not a perfect world. It is the 11th hour and your job is to get the “two teacher recommendations” box checked. If a teacher who is not your favorite teacher is willing to help you check that box, be humble and accept their offer graciously.

Step 3: Cast a Wide Net

Ask everyone and anyone who might bite and don’t wait to hear back before asking some more. If, at the end of the day, you end up with four teacher recommendations instead of two, you can choose between them.

Step 4: Thank Yous

Once a teacher (or four) completes your recommendations, write them a very nice thank you note and buy them a little gift, because, on top of all that they do normally, they just took extra time out of their already busy lives to save your skin.  

Step 5:  If No One Says ‘Yes’

If, on the off-chance, no one agrees to write your recommendation, you should go to an outside recommender. Perhaps this is a sports coach, a girl scout troop leader, or someone else who knows your capabilities. Get them to overcompensate. At this point, you are doing something different than what was asked for, so it will need to have fireworks. You will also need to include information on why you chose an outside recommender over a teacher in the additional information section of the Common App and discuss why this speaks to who you are in a better way than a teacher recommendation could.
Need more advice on how to find or approach the best possible recommender? We have some ideas. Contact us here.