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Summer is just around the corner and, especially for those juniors powering through the sea of standardized tests formally known as “junior spring,” I bet y’all can’t wait! But before you head off to camp, work or the beach, I suggest you spend some time thinking about recommendation letters for college.

Colleges that require recommendation letters generally want to hear from junior year teachers. As a result, junior year teachers end up writing a lot of letters. Seriously, a lot. If you think your class of 35 is big, remember that your teacher teaches three other sections of US History! And by the time next October rolls around, they’ll be working with a whole new crop of students.

With that in mind, juniors should request those letters before going on summer break. Your teacher might not write your recommendation letter until the fall, but this shows how much you value and respect your teacher’s time and efforts.  The relationship you’ve developed also will be fresh on both your minds, and you will have time to make your request in a thoughtful way, rather than rushing through it next fall after 30 other kids have already asked for the same favor.

Asking a teacher to write a recommendation letter is a big request – it is going to take them time and energy to do a good job on your behalf. For many students, the ask itself can be intimidating, so waiting until next fall – especially if you no longer see the teacher every day – will not make things any easier. One way to broach the subject is to begin talking to your teacher about college options. Share your list, ask if she has any recommendations of colleges to research, and talk about potential areas of study that interest you. If you open up a line of conversation that is connected to college (rather than about the class material you discuss every day), you might find that asking for a letter comes much more naturally.

So much happens between now and next fall, and you’ll find yourself in a whirlwind of new classes and application essays when you return to school after summer break. You can save yourself some stress now by taking a break from SAT/ACT prep to think about which teachers you want to ask to support you in the college application process.

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Written by Becky Leichtling
Becky Leichtling is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Becky is a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Education; prior to joining College Coach, Becky was a senior admissions officer at Tufts University. Visit our website to learn more about Becky Leichtling.