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Time to Ask

Juniors have a lot on their plates. So maybe they can relate to another group under pressure to produce above and beyond their regular duties: junior English teachers. If you think about it, almost every student who applies to college will need at least one letter of recommendation. And in a majority of those cases, potential applicants will turn to their English teachers from junior year. Can you imagine having to write 75-100 letters in a single application season?

Given these conditions, how can you make sure your teacher recommendation stands out? Here are three suggestions:

* Ask now. Will your teacher better sing your praises when he/she is relaxed, has plenty of time, and can easily recall anecdotes from class (that is, over the summer), or when he/she is inundated with the demands of the beginning of the school year? Be one of the first to get on your favorite teacher's dance card.

* Choose a teacher who actually knows you. Ideally, this is a junior-year teacher with whom you have developed a relationship, both in- and outside of class. Think about the class where you exhibited intellectual interest, resiliance, creativity, curiosity and maturity. This may or may not be the course in which you received the highest final grade.

* Provide your teacher with something to talk about. This shouldn't be a problem if you already know the teacher well, but everyone appreciates some extra help -- and this step has the advantage of also demonstrating your thoughtfulness and organizational skills. After your teacher has agreed to write for you, send a brief e-mail reminding him/her of the projects or papers that you are most proud of, or the presentations or interactions that might be most memorable. Avoid sending a resume; you want your teacher to talk about your strengths in the classroom and leave your outside accomplishments to your school counselor.

In this as in so many areas of college planning, earlier is better. If you need help getting started -- or getting caught up -- call me at 847-660-8625, or click the "Contact Me" button at the bottom of the page.

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