Seniors: How do you request recommendation letters?

By Rajkamal Rao  

Most colleges use online recommendation platforms. Image Courtesy: UT Austin

Seniors often ask me the best way to send recommendation letters to colleges.

The first advice we have is to identify who it would be that would write you a recommendation letter. Someone who knows you really well and can speak to your strengths (and weaknesses) is always the best choice. Let's suppose this is Mrs. Robinson, your AP English Language teacher.

You would send Mrs. Robinson a polite email requesting her to write you a recommendation letter - and why you're asking her to do the honors. A few pleasant words about how much you enjoyed her classes - or working with her outside the classroom - would help. Attach your resume so that she knows your entire profile. And tell her the list of schools you're applying to (including their deadlines) so that she can plan her work. If she's a good teacher, several students just like you will be approaching her for recommendation letters, so any information that you can provide which will help her prioritize her schedule is a no-brainer.

Follow up on the email by walking into her office and reminding her that you wrote her an email. Ask her if there's anything she's looking for which will help her write the letter. And tell her that she should shortly be seeing links from colleges and universities in your list.

Requesting recommendation links

Now that you have prepared your recommenders, it's time for you to have those links sent. We will use UT Austin's system to illustrate this process.

1. Log in to UT's Mystatus page. You can only do this after you have completed your ApplyTex or Coalition App, paid the fee, and have received your UT EID.

2. On the Admission tab in Mystatus, click on "Document Upload Requests."

3. Click on "Select Other Doc Type"

4. Choose "Letters of Recommendation" from the dropdown and select the radio button "send a request to someone to upload a document for you."

5. Waive your FERPA rights to see your recommendation letter. Remember that these documents are 100% confidential between recommender and the university of your choice. This is the only way recommenders can freely talk about you. Most colleges will not review recommendation letters if you don't waive your FERPA rights.

6. Fill out the details of the recommender including the email address. The college will send a secure link to the recommender when you're done with this step. When the recommender clicks on that link, a form and a text box will open up for her to complete the recommendation letter. Anything that the recommender writes will directly be part of your student record, but because you waived your FERPA rights, you will not be able to see it. And this is by design.

What About Schools Which Do Not Provide Links?

Not all schools allow you to send links to your teacher to complete the recommendation letter online. In such cases, you either upload your recommendation letter after receiving it from your teacher, which means you have a chance to see what your teacher wrote about you. Or you ask your teacher to mail it to the target college or university, in which case you will protect its confidentiality.

Consider Texas A&M. Although it is a world-class school, TAMU does not provide a link for third party uploads.

Recommendation letters can be uploaded by the student on the student's Appliction Information System (AIS) page. Go to the "Upload Documents" page under the "My Documents" tab. Documents uploaded through AIS can be viewed by the applicant. So, if your teachers do not mind you reading the letter, you may open it and upload it yourself. In effect, Texas A&M doesn't care too much about the FERPA rights of confidentiality.

If your teachers want their letter to remain confidential, they should mail it to the address below. Documents mailed to Texas A&M cannot be viewed by the applicant and will remain confidential. Be sure to have your recommender include your Texas A&M UIN ID and email address which uniquely identify you to Texas A&M.

FRESHMAN Admissions Processing
Texas A&M University
P.O. Box 30014
College Station, TX 77842-3014

The Most Important Step

Make sure you thank your teachers profusely. Their time and effort could well mean the difference between attending that first-choice college or not.

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