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by Abigail Van Buren

Planning Helps Students Get Good Letter of Recommendation

DEAR ABBY: I must differ with something you stated in a recent column. For high school teachers and some counselors, being asked to write a letter of recommendation is not always a compliment. There are many students (and parents!) who think that teachers OWE them a letter. Around college application time, teachers are flooded with requests. The result is that teachers write generic letters that often have little bearing on the true abilities of the students, simply because of the volume of letters requested.

Students are not always thoughtful in making their requests, so please allow me to offer a few suggestions that will guarantee worthwhile teacher recommendations:

(1) Teachers are very busy. Don't leave your request for the last minute and expect it to be accommodated.

(2) Provide the teacher with all of the relevant information about your high school career, such as student activities, work experience, future plans for study and career, and why you're applying to a particular school.

(3) Provide a stamped, addressed envelope if the recommendation is to be mailed.

(4) Write a thank-you note to the teacher for taking valuable personal time to help you. This is good practice for job applications later on.

(5) Parents, this is your child's job, not yours. However, if a teacher has played a significant role in your child's life, a handwritten note from you is more precious than any "teacher-themed" trinket gift, and appropriate at any time of the year.

Most teachers want to see their students succeed. A little planning and good manners make all the difference. -- A POPULAR TEACHER, MINNEAPOLIS

DEAR POPULAR TEACHER: Your suggestions are excellent. I hope that students will take note of them and do some advance planning before asking their teachers for letters of recommendation. That way everyone will be a winner.