Letters of Recommendation for College Applications

  • Expand each step for detailed instructions. See also:

    • Letters of Recommendation screencast for a walk-through of the process 
    • the Naviance how-to video at the bottom of this page for the Naviance portion of the request

    Rising Seniors:  You can do up to Step 3 in the spring/ summer. Please wait until fall to complete Steps 4-8. 

Letters of Recommendation Documents

Letter of Recommendation Q&A

  • How do I decide which teachers to ask?

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    Ask teachers who know you well. You do not have to be getting an A in the class. 

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  • Does it matter which class I had the teacher for?

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    Colleges generally want letters from teachers of core subjects (English, Math, Science, Social Studies) for the required number of letters. If a college requires two letters, then ask core teachers for those two. If a college requires one letter but will take two, you could ask a core teacher for the one letter and use a non core teacher (language, music, art, elective) for the other letter. 

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  • What if I am applying to a special program?

    Posted by:

    That is relevant. If you are applying as a direct admit to an engineering program, you should include at least one STEM teacher. If you are applying to a music conservatory, you should include at least one music teacher. Feel free to ask college representatives for the colleges' preferences for questions at this level, because the answers may vary from school to school.

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  • Do I need to provide the maximum number of letters they allow?

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    No. If a college requires two letters but will take up to four, they will not devalue your application if you provide two. 

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  • May I have a non-Shorewood teacher write a letter?

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    Yes, if you are willing to do a bit of extra work. 

    If that teacher is a Shoreline School District teacher, ask Mrs. Stephens to add (or keep) that teacher as a Naviance user. It would be helpful for you to let her know when the letters are completed so that she can deactivate the teacher once your applications are finished. Teacher users will receive all of Mrs. Stephens' emails, which they will not need if they teach at a different school. 

    If your teacher is retired, teaches out of district, or is one of your professors for a Running Start class, you will have to do some legwork.

    These letters will go through Mrs. Stephens. Letters sent to her from students will not be accepted. The letters must come to her directly from the teacher/ professor. 

    Here's the sequence: 

    1. Ask your teacher/ professor in person. 
    2. After the teacher/ professor says yes, send an email to that teacher/ professor and Mrs. Stephens to 'introduce' us via email. Let us know your deadlines and the colleges you are applying to. (Mrs. S can see those in Naviance, but your other recommender cannot.)
    3. Mrs. Stephens will send the teacher instructions. The teacher may be asked to fill out a Common App Teacher Evaluation.
    4. Mrs. Stephens will send you instructions for requesting the letter in Naviance. 
    5. Request the letter in Naviance as above, using the direction that Mrs. Stephens provides. 
    6. The teacher/ professor will email a pdf to Mrs. Stephens, who will upload it into Naviance and send it to the college.
    7. Thank the teacher/ professor as outlined above. 


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  • What if the letter has not been uploaded/ sent?

    Posted by:

    There are two common problems in the letter procedure:  

    1. Teachers may have uploaded but not sent the letters. Teachers are asked to not only upload, but also electronically send the letters so that the letters are an arrangement between the student, the teacher, and the college (not with the rest of the Shorewood staff). If there is a glitch, sometimes the teacher cannot send. If the teacher asks  Mrs. Stephens or Mrs. Roma directly to send a particular letter, we will do so. 

    2) Letters cannot be sent to Common App schools until the teacher also completes a short evaluation. If your teacher does not know how to complete the evaluation, Mrs. Stephens or Mrs. Roma will help. Mrs. Stephens can re-send instructions to any teachers who need them. 

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  • How can I view the letters?

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    You cannot, unless the teacher chooses to provide you with a copy. (Do not ask the teacher for it!)

    The FERPA waiver that you sign when you set up the application systems in Naviance and the Common App says that you waive your right to see the letters. This step is regarded as the standard, since it shows integrity on your part. Colleges will not trust letters that they know have been screened by the student. 


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  • What if I need a letter for a scholarship application?

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    Scholarships often ask for letters of recommendation. 

    If you already asked teachers for letters for college applications, ask the teacher(s) if they would be willing to repurpose their letters for your scholarship application. Please give them plenty of notice since they will have to adjust how the letter is written. 

    Scholarships vary in how they wish the letters to be submitted. There may be an online portal, they may wish the recommenders send letters directly to a particular email address, or they may wish for a hard copy (in a sealed envelope) to be submitted with your paper application. In any of the above cases, it is best if you handle the letters as little as possible so that they are confidential. 

    If you do not already have letters for college applications, then ask for a letter several weeks in advance and ask if they would like you to fill out a brag sheet. If they would, type the answers and email them to the teacher. Also be sure they know the scholarship deadline. 

    Thank your teacher for the letters! 

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