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Answers to Your College Questions

I have to get letters of recommendation for my college application. Who should I ask?

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If you need letters from your teachers, you should ask teachers who know you well and who can say something specific and unique about you as a student. You can also get optional recommendations, which are best written by individuals who know you well in a context where you shine. Examples include deans, additional teachers, coaches, employers, and community service directors.

Sit down with your parents (or perhaps an older sibling or close friends) and brainstorm names of three to five potential teacher recommenders. Ask yourself:

  • With whom have I had the best relationship?
  • What classes have I enjoyed the most?
  • In whose classes have I received the best grades and/or performed in some special way?
  • Has any teacher sponsored me for an award, written previous recommendations, or asked me to be a teaching assistant?
  • Who is going to totally sing my praises?

For each teacher, assign a number from 1 (terrible) to 10 (the best!) based on what kind of recommendation you think they will write, and then pick the two with the highest scores.



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Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz is author of adMISSION POSSIBLE: The “Dare to Be Yourself” Guide for Getting into the Best Colleges for You, and founder/director of, a free college admissions information and resources website. An award-winning author, speaker, and professional counselor, Hansen Shaevitz is a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultant’s Association (IECA) and a Unigo Expert Network columnist. She is a former member of Stanford University’s Parents’ Board and chair of the Advisory Council for Stanford’s Institute for Women & Gender. She spent twelve years as a trustee for La Jolla Country Day School. Hansen Shaevitz has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Stanford University, was Orientation Officer at the East West Center, a member of the Dean of Students staff at Stanford, and directed the College Re-Entry Program at the University of California, San Diego.

See adMISSION POSSIBLE in the College Countdown bookstore.