How to ask for a LOR

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Requesting the Best Recommendation Letter Ever

While many students think that the only thing that matters is the content of the letter (and believe me, that is a HUGE factor), it’s just as important to take into account who you should ask for the recommendation; it is NOT just about asking your favorite teacher or supervisor. For school, take into consideration which classes and teachers have challenged you. These teachers are going to see the effort you put forth in their class, and that gives them something extra to write about in a letter of recommendation, especially if you stay for extra help, ask plenty of questions in class, and do the extra credit.


Decide who to ask

It’s also important to take into account who the recommendation letter is going to. Is the letter for a Biology scholarship? Have a science teacher write the recommendation letter. Is it for an internship? Have a former employer that you interned with (or, if you haven’t interned before, a teacher who’s class content aligns with the internship) write the letter. This will help your recommendation letter stand out much more to those who will be reading it.

It doesn’t matter how great you get along with your teacher or how long you’ve known them: the first step is always to write a formal letter. Even though it may seem a little bit awkward at first, it is worse to not write a letter and instead just ask the teacher in-person for a recommendation letter by a certain date; doing that makes you look unprofessional and they’re likely to forget. By writing the teacher a letter, you are giving your teacher something material to look at and reference while writing their recommendation. (Don’t worry, it only needs to be a paragraph or two.)

Even though the teacher may know you really well, they often have hundreds of students and it can become easy to get the details, achievements, and stories of their students mixed up. Tell them what you need the letter of recommendation for (college, scholarship, etc.) and ask if they would be willing to take the time out of their busy schedules write you one.  If the college/scholarship/job requires that the letter be submitted electronically by the teacher, make sure to give them the link and the deadline so that there’s no last-minute confusion. If you need a paper copy, request that it is in a sealed envelope the teacher’s signature across the seal; doing this ensures the college/organization that you are submitting the letter to that you have not read the letter, which many of them prefer.

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Ways to Make and Study Flash Cards

Flash cards are one of the classic study tools, and for good reason – they promote studying through active recall, which is one of the practices through which our brains learn most effectively.

Make your own flash cards

Lots of people like to share their flash card decks, and there are also plenty of flash card apps and programs out there that will let you download pre-made decks and start studying instantly. I think using pre-made cards can sometimes be useful – such as a case where you have an unreasonably high number of facts to learn and you’re in a time crunch – but in most cases, you’ll serve your brain better by making your own flash cards.

Doing so creates strong neural pathways, which enable you to easily retrieve what you’ve learned at a later date. That’s why one of professor Marty Lobdell’s tips in his Study Less, Study Smart lecture was to teach what you’re learning – doing so forces you to present the information in your own words.

Remember that flash cards are only one method of reviewing material. There are lots of others that may be more effective, depending on what type of material you’re studying and how far you are into the learning process.

Say your answers out loud!

Today I learned…

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