Asking for recommendations can be stressful but the key is a sound strategy and smart habits. Without further ado, here are ChaseFuture's Five Tips for Top Recs:
Speak up. Contribute during class by offering insights on the reading and course material. Speak openly but politely and ask thoughtful questions that spur discussion. Your teacher will appreciate it and admissions committees favor engaging students that will contribute to campus academics. The ability to synthesize information and share insights will truly set you apart.
Get advice. Where to apply? How to improve my writing? Speak with your teacher after class about challenges or big questions you face. Teachers enjoy sharing wisdom with a responsive student. By asking my professors for advice I was able to build a strong bond where they invested time and effort into my success. When it came time to ask for a recommendation, they were happy to help because they knew my plan and wanted to assist me in achieving admission to business school. A recommendation letter that highlights your personal characteristics is much stronger that a generic one based solely on the quality of your work so start building these relationships now!
Confront Weaknesses. Maybe you have you have a bad test score, no extra-curriculars or a failing grade, and admissions committees are likely to learn of them. Instead of trying to hide shortcomings, confront them. Years ago, my recommender persuasively argued that my lackluster transcript was a reflection of all the time I spent on athletics, leadership and debate. What have you learned and what is your plan to improve? Suggesting answers to your recommender can pay big dividends, as it did in my case. Consider also using a paragraph of your personal statement to address your weakness and how it’s made you a stronger applicant. I wrote about developing effective time management and communication skills that would serve me well in university and beyond.
Give Guidance. After your teacher has agreed to write the recommendation you should provide clarity on the purpose of the letter. What are the key points of your candidacy? Convey these in writing to the recommender along with your personal statement, essays, and transcript and test scores. I included a full page of guidance to answer all my recommender's potential questions and it resulted in a strong rec letter. You want a rich portrait painted by the recommender so include all relevant information as well as specific attributes to highlight.
Follow-up. Express your appreciation by keeping your teachers apprised of the admissions process. With an emotional investment in your success, they will be gratified that their letter helped you gain admission into university. A handwritten thank-you note and small gift speaks volumes. Remember, recommendations are also helpful in the job search and for graduate school admission so keep building a strong relationship with your recommenders.
I used these tips to get great recommendation letters that helped me earn admission to Cambridge Business School on a Gates Scholarship. Consistently work to build productive habits and you'll have a good shot at getting effective recommendations!