It seems one of the more stressful parts of the college application process is finding someone to write a recommendation letter for you. Some schools may ask you to provide just one while other may ask for three recommenders. If you’re anything like I was, you’re going to think yourself in circles trying to pick the right faculty member or mentor. But let me assure you – it is not as scary as you may think! I want to share with you how I picked my recommenders in high school.

The first piece of advice I have is to pick someone who knows you well and has seen you grow. Whether it be your favorite teacher or a sports coach who has known you for three years, picking someone who can write a lot about you and your strengths is key. When going through this process myself, I asked an English teacher I had two years in a row. This teacher not only knew my very well after having me for two years but also saw how my work ethic grew over that period. I also asked my orchestra teacher who gave me music instruction all four years of high school. Again, she was able to talk about my dedication, growth, attitude, how I interacted with my peers, and so much more.

The second piece of advice I have is to make sure you give your recommenders a lot of time to write your recommendation. Like all of us, our teachers, coaches, and mentors all have busy lives of their own. The sooner you ask them to write you a recommendation, the less of a chance you have for them to say they cannot do it due to time restraints. Teachers may also ask you to fill out a questionnaire that can help them write about you. I made sure to ask my recommenders at least three months in advance.

When it comes to actually asking your recommenders, just do it! Most teachers are more than happy to write you a recommendation. They understand this process because they were there once too, and they of course want to brag about their students! They will likely feel honored that you asked them. The worst that can happen is that a teacher says they cannot write it because they are too busy. Be sure to have a few back-ups just in case this happens. When you know who is going to write you a recommendation, be sure to follow up with them. Check in at least three weeks before all letters need to be in to make sure it is on their radar. As I said before, they are human too and it is totally possible that they may forget. Besides, they also have other recommendations to write!

Finally, being sure to properly thank you recommenders is key. As a thank you to mine, I hand wrote them thank you notes, not only for writing the recommendation but also for helping me learn throughout high school. I also included a small gift with each of these.

And there you have it – the process of asking for letters of recommendation. Who are you going to ask?