This time of year, many seniors find themselves scrambling around at the last minute, trying to find a teacher willing and able to write a letter of recommendation. Far too often, those students are forced to settle for hastily written letters penned by teachers who are more interested in making it to the holidays than in taking the time to write a thoughtful letter of recommendation.

In order to avoid this common plight, students need to plan ahead and follow a few important rules of thumb:

Find the right teacher to complete your recommendation 

As is the case with all aspects of your application process, it is vital to be proactive in locating the teacher who can best encapsulate your strengths as both a student and a member of the community. Remember that the teachers who give you the best grades are not always the ones who will give you the best recommendation. Sometimes that teacher that pushed you the hardest to succeed might be a better choice.

Give your teacher plenty of warning

Don’t forget that teachers have stressful jobs and complicated lives as well, so the earlier you can let them know about your desire to have them write a recommendation, the better. This will also allow them plenty of time to consider your situation and write as personal a letter as possible. Don’t hesitate to provide friendly reminders for your teachers as the deadlines approach to ensure that they remember to get your letter completed in a timely fashion.

Be sure to provide teachers with a resume or list of accomplishments

If you want teachers to give you a glowing recommendation, then you need to be sure to give them ammunition. Giving teachers a resume can help fill in any holes when it comes to their understanding of who you are both as a student and as a member of your community. College Admissions Officers like to see recommendations that are both personal and informative, so any materials you can provide your teacher that reveals who you are will go a long way towards ensuring that you get your most dynamic letter of recommendation.

Be sure to provide a stamp and addressed envelope for every teacher who is writing a recommendation letter 

This is a common courtesy that is overlooked many times by students. Remember that manners rarely go unnoticed or unrewarded.

Finally, be sure to send each teacher a thank you note and keep them up to date on your admissions status

 Teachers rarely get the thanks or notice they deserve, so please don’t take their efforts on your behalf for granted. A simple note can go a long way towards letting teachers know how much you appreciate all that they have done for you and don’t forget them once you have secured what you need from them. These teachers are your biggest fans in many cases, so let them know how your admissions “game” is progressing.