One of the most stressful times during a student’s high school experience is the period they are applying to colleges. An important aspect of this college application process is acquiring letters of recommendation. For many, this will be their first time asking for a letter of recommendation. To ensure that you can nail this part of your application, follow these steps.

What should my letter contain?

A letter of recommendation should complement your application by providing a clear picture of who you are as a person. Grades and test scores are important, but they cannot exemplify these things. You should spend some time thinking about any recent situations or events, like a tough group project you led to success, that you can draw on to highlight your growth.

How many letters will I need?

Before you ask anyone to write a letter of recommendation, you should look up the requirements of the college you are applying to, though they may vary in specificity. Some may want letters of recommendation from a teacher who instructs a specific subject, or they may be vaguer in what they want, leaving it up to you to decide who would be the best person to ask.

Who should I ask?

After you have determined what events or accomplishments you are not only most proud of but also represent who you are as a person, figure out what teacher or counselor would be the best at describing it. You should only consider teachers and counselors who you have had recent contact with. Furthermore, you can also narrow down the list of potential writers for your letter of recommendation by identifying those who you have the strongest relationship with.

When and how should I ask?

Keep in kind that you aren’t going to be the only one seeking letters of recommendation. A huge portion of the student body will also be seeking writers for their letters, so you should ask in the spring or summer of your junior year. This will not only give the teachers more time to work on your letter, but it will also put you ahead of the game before they start getting overwhelmed with requests.

Unless your school has a certain protocol to ask for letters of recommendation, you should always do it in person. When you do ask, make sure that you provide them with all of the necessary information to write a great letter. You want to make it as easy for them as possible since they will most likely be writing a lot of these letters in the coming months.

Follow up politely

It is easy to get frustrated with the progress of your letter of recommendation when the deadline is approaching. If you asked early enough, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, due to the demands of writing these letters, as well as staying on top of their everyday responsibilities, be patient with your writers. If the deadline is coming up, politely reach out and ask them if they need anything else to complete your letter.