Applying for College: Timeline | Researching Colleges | RecommendationsActivities | Essays | Glossary

Strong letters of recommendation can differentiate you among a large pool of applicants. Recommendations from teachers, counselors, and other individuals can offer insight into your academic performance and/or personal character. The School Report (counselor recommendation) can provide a sense of how you stand out within your class at school. The earlier you build relationships with your recommenders, the better, as they can be excellent advocates for you on your path to college.

Required Recommendations

For the National College Match application for high school seniors, you will need to obtain two recommendations and one School Report:

  • Two recommendations

    • One recommendation should be from a recent core academic subject high school teacher, preferably from your junior year.

    • The second recommendation can be from a teacher or anyone else outside your household or immediate family who knows you well and can speak to who you are as a person

  • School Report from current high school counselor

For the College Prep Scholars Program for high school juniors, you will need to obtain:

  • One Academic Recommendation from a teacher (preferably in a core academic subject)

  • One Character Recommendation

Please note that QuestBridge does not accept additional recommendations. If you are interested in submitting additional letters, please contact colleges directly to determine whether they are willing to accept them. 

Who to Ask

Use the criteria below when selecting who to ask for recommendations. If you answer “no” to many of the questions below, consider asking someone else for a recommendation.


  • Did they teach you recently?

  • Did they teach you in a core academic subject?

  • Did you do well in their class, or improve dramatically?

  • Did they agree to write the letter without hesitation?

  • Do they know you outside of the classroom?

  • Do they have time to finish a letter before the deadline?

Other Recommenders

  • Do they know you outside of the classroom?

  • Have you interacted or worked with them recently?

  • Can they speak to your personal characteristics or strengths?

  • Did they agree to write the letter without hesitation?

  • Do they have time to finish a letter before the deadline?

When to Ask

Your teachers and counselors will be writing recommendations for other students as well, so provide them with ample time to complete your recommendation. In general, you should ask recommenders at least two to three weeks before the deadline. One month prior or more is preferable.

How to Ask

Asking for a recommendation in-person is always preferable. First, ask if they feel comfortable writing you a strong recommendation. If the answer is no, make sure you have enough time to ask someone else.

It is a good idea to provide your recommenders with a packet of information about yourself, including some combination of the following:

  • Why you are interested in applying through QuestBridge

  • A list of colleges to which you are applying

  • An activities resume

  • Your transcript

  • A draft of your college application personal essay

  • Personal information such as your family situation

  • “Thank you in advance” note

Following Up

Check back with your recommenders to ensure everything is going well, to see if they have questions, and to give them friendly reminders about deadlines. After the recommendation is submitted, keep your recommenders updated about the results of your college application process. Remember, you may need to ask them for another recommendation at a later time, either for another application or scholarship.