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?

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    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. You have two options: 

    1. Use the Recommenders function in the Common App. (This assumes you are using the Common Application!) The Recommenders function is under each school's supplement under My Colleges. You CANNOT request Shorewood, Shorecrest, Einstein, Kellogg or any Shoreline teachers using the Common App tool, only non-Shoreline people. 
    2. Ask each college how to submit other materials. You should not email a letter yourself or ask your professor/ recommender to figure it out. You must figure it out and then communicate with your recommender.
      1. Ask the professor/ recommender well in advance if they will write you a letter. 
      2. Search the college website to see if there is a prescribed method for submitting other materials. 
      3. If you cannot find instructions, email or call the admissions office to get an upload link or an email address. 
      4. Provide clear instructions to your professor/ recommender. 
      5. Follow up with your professor/ recommender as your deadline approaches. 
      6. Detail somewhere in your application, probably in the extra information section, that admissions should look for the letter from Professor ________(their name) and how it will be coming to them. 
      7. Thank your recommender! 

     

     

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

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    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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