If you would like to ask me to write a recommendation letter for you, please adhere to the following protocol. TO BE CLEAR, I DO NOT BEGIN WRITING YOUR RECOMMENDATION UNTIL YOU PROVIDE A "RESUME" AND I HAVE A SPECIFIC THING TO WRITE FOR (see #2, below).
ASK ME. Ask me far enough in advance that I will have time to prepare a quality recommendation.
For college admissions/scholarship applications, giving me less than two weeks notice is going to make me cranky. (And you don't want your recommender to be cranky, do you?) One week, and I'm not happy. Less than one week? I will probably say, "No." Not because I hate you and want to ruin your life, but because I will not be able to spend the time to do you (the best student I've ever taught) the justice you deserve.
For recommendations for Governor's School, a job, or a local scholarship (for example), the two weeks notice is still a good rule of thumb.
GIVE ME THE INFORMATION TO SUCCEED. I will require from you several items:
A "resume." For this resume, I'd like you to explicate the following:
Education (specifically, have you taken college courses? attended another high school? taken AP classes?)
Honors, Awards, Distinctions (in- and out- of school)
High School activities (clubs, teams, and athletics)
Community and Leadership (do you volunteer outside of school or service club related events? how many hours? have you attended educational summer camps? were you nominated to attend the camp?)
Work Experience (where have you worked? what position/s? how often?)
Information about the recommendation I am writing.
Is this a college application? What college? What is the program you're most interested in? What is the college looking for in an applicant? (I.e., physical vigor, demonstrated leadership, character).
Is this for a scholarship? Who administers the scholarship? What "strengths" does the organization stress that awardees should demonstrate? (I.e., leadership, child of an educator, child of an active duty service member, committed community service.)
Is this for a job? What is the position? What will you be expected to do? (I.e., supervise others, be on time, independently motivated).
To whom do I address the recommendation letter? I'm happy to write the standard "To Whom It May Concern" opening, but having a name and/or organization is much classier and demonstrates your ethos. (And mine, too.)
Information about HOW I am to submit the recommendation letter.
Do I give it to you? (I'm not wild about that option, by the way.)
Do I mail it? To whom? Does it need to be registered/certified? (If so, then it would be very polite of you to provide envelopes already addressed and stamped.)
Do I email it? To whom?
Do I attach it to an online application? What's the URL of the online site?
THANK ME. Seriously. I don't need money, a gift card, a handwritten sticky note (but I LOVE handwritten notes!), a new car, keys to your grandparent's vacation home in the Caribbean. But a hug? And a spoken "thank you"? That would be perfect. Let me know that the two (or more) hours I slaved over your recommendation was appreciated. (I'm not even kidding about the time I spend.)