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The Three Cardinal Rules of Letters of Recommendation

A concise guide on how to get a glowing letter of recommendation from your teachers.

When applying to colleges, academic performance and extracurricular activities are often important factors which increase a student’s chance of receiving an acceptance.

However, there is one other factor which students often neglect when drafting their college applications: letters of recommendations. In short, a letter of recommendation is a letter written by a teacher who recommends a student to a college because of his or her striking qualities.

An ideal letter of recommendation should be written by a teacher who knows a student for a long time, believes that the student is a suitable candidate for college and is able to state and explain the student’s strengths and accomplishments.

The following guide is designed to maximise the chances of you obtaining a stellar letter of recommendation that maximizes your chances of admission in top-tier universities around the world.

Rule 1: Plan Ahead (By a Few Months, Not Days or Weeks)

Do not start looking for letters of recommendation a week before the submission deadline of your college application. It is strongly advised that you plan ahead and have a list of teachers you want to get letters of recommendation by the end of junior year (grade 11). The list of teachers should consist of two or three teachers which you think would speak most favourably of you and ones you have great relationships with.

Remember, writing recommendations is an additional burden for teachers, many of whom are already swamped with work during the academic year. This is why many teachers look forward to writing recommendations during the summer holiday before your senior year. Thus, approaching them before the break begins maximizes your chance of receiving a stellar recommendation. For other teachers who wait for grade 12 to begin before writing letters of recommendation, it is advised that you should ask them right at the beginning of the new term.

Overall, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when planning ahead is that you should have collected all your letters of recommendation a few months before the college application deadline. Remember, a great recommendation often takes a few days to write and revise, so make sure you give your teachers enough legroom to produce the glowing letter you rightfully deserve.

Rule 2: Include Relevant Details

When asking a teacher for a letter of recommendation, it is best that you start off by mentioning a positive experience that you share with that teacher. By mentioning a specific memory which both you and your teacher know about, you are reminding the teacher of why you deserve their recommendation.

Other than the above, here is a list of personal details which will help your teacher furnish an outstanding recommendation:

  1. GPA and overall class grade.

  2. Class rank (if given).

  3. Extracurricular activities that relate to the subject the teacher teaches.

  4. Your academic journey in the class – be sure to mention how you have demonstrated a keen interest in the subject during class hours.

  5. Explanations for any drop in performance – it’s alright to have lost a few points in some assignments as long as you are able to justify the same and indicate how you improved/will improve on the same.

  6. Deadline for when this letter is due.

Rule 3: Follow Up! Frequently and Proactively.

Once your teacher has agreed to write a letter of recommendation for you, don’t just leave them be. It is more than okay for you to ask, text or e-mail your teacher about the letter of recommendation. For example, you should follow-up with your teacher with a “thank you” to express your gratitude to him or her for writing you a recommendation.

You can also ask your teacher about the progress of the letter and how it’s coming along by reminding them about the deadline. It is also advised that you check-in periodically with your teacher to see whether they need any further information to complete the letter. If you participate in an activity that might be relevant to your recommendation, feel free to update your teacher from time to time. This shows initiative on your part, and even if your teacher doesn’t respond to each and every communication, you can be assured that they will take your outgoing personality into account when drafting their recommendation for you.

Need Help with College Applications?

The fact that recommendations have become such an important part of college applications points to one singular fact: with admissions becoming increasingly competitive, early mentorship is key to a successful application. We offer a highly personalized one-to-one mentorship programme to students in Grade 8-12 by working with a select cohort of 10 students per grade. Our purpose with is to select a miniscule cohort of applicants, give them an individualised experience, and help them develop a distinctive, powerful profile for college applications.

Since our intake is limited, please drop us a message on WhatsApp (‭+91 96194 58430‬) or email ( to inquire about our availibility for your child. Our engagement officer will then guide you forward with the process.

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