How can planning increase a student's chance of getting great teacher recommendations?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How can planning increase a student's chance of getting great teacher recommendations?

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Avoid waiting for the last minute...

If you are proactive, you can create a recommendation request letter to give to your selected teachers. For each, you could include a particular event or project or accomplishment that you want the teacher to remember and that might remind the teacher of some of your interesting or exceptional qualities that she could comment on in the letter.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Teacher recommendations

It's always the same teachers who get asked for recs. Do your teacher a favor and give them plenty of lead time. I love my clients to request recs before summer vacation of senior year. This gives the teacher plenty of time and avoids the typical crunch time in the fall. Offer to sit down with the teacher and talk about your future, interests outside their classroom, etc. Or, create a brief resume since often the teacher only knows you from that class viewpoint. You are flattering a teacher by letting them know you valued the education you received from them. Teachers teach because they enjoy watching their students learn and mature. They are on your team, don't be shy about approaching them.

Rana Slosberg
Owner Slosberg College Solutions LLC

Plan ahead

If you plan ahead, you can give recommendation letter writers adequate time and information (e.g., why you selected them, highlights of your experience with them, a resume, a transcript, colleges you are applying to, due dates for recommendation letters, and hard copy forms with stamped addressed envelopes, if needed) to complete a great, on-time the teacher recommendation.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

How can planning increase a student's chance of getting great teacher recommendations?

Generally, it is the junior year teachers that a student will ask to write the letters of recommendation. It is a good idea to have one letter that is from a math or science teacher and one letter that is from an English, or history, or language teacher. You do not want to be a "grade grubber," but it is important to show that you care about learning (not just the grade), ask good questions, be a positive, productive member of the class. Get your work done well and on time, be pleasant, have a sense of humor. All these attributes can lead to positive letters.

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School

Popular teachers

We all can name the top 10 popular teachers in high school. Those teachers are the most likely to get asked to write recommendations. Therefore, if you do not ask in advance you will be put on a waiting list with everyone else who asked. Teachers typically write recommendations in the order in which they are asked. You may also lose out an oppurtunity to get a great recommendation, if the teacher only writes a certain amount of recommendations per year. By planning ahead you also give the teacher plenty of time to write the best recommendation possible. If you rush the teacher to write a recommendation it is not going to be as good as it could have been. I always suggest you ask in May of your junior year to give the teacher plenty of time to write a great recommendation.

Reena Gold Kamins
Founder College, Career & Life, LLC.

The more respectful you are of your teacher's time, the better the letter she'll write.

Dropping a recommendation form in a teacher's mailbox with a post-it note and the due date, doesn't show a lot of respect for her time. So, chances are that teacher won't put a lot of effort into the letter. I encourage students to schedule a meeting to ask for a recommendation letter. Take the time to show your teacher your list of schools (so they know how many they have to write) and explain to them why you're interested in each school. Talking to them about your list might reveal information that could help you. Perhaps your teacher attended one of the schools on your list. If she's familiar with the college's curriculum, her evaluation of your ability to succeed within it, is more meaningful. Similiarly, if she knows other students who've attended and done well at particular college and can discuss your abilities relative to that student, it is more meaningful. These conversations can't be had if you wait till the last minute. Ideally, you will give your teacher at least 4 weeks to write the letter. If you want to meet with her first, you need to allow five weeks.

Michelle Aronoff
Guidance Counselor

Stand out as a student.

Getting a great teacher recommendation is not as much about your grade in their class (although it is a factor) as it is how well that teacher got to know you as a student. If you did great in their class but never spoke with the teacher individually or participated in class discussions, they may not have much to write about except that you were prepared and did your assignments. You want them to get to know you so they fill the page with all of your great qualities!

Michelle Brown
Licensed Counselor/Social Empowerment Educator OaklandUniv./BreatheAgainCounseling

How can planning increase a student's chance of getting great teacher recommendations?

Planning takes time and patience. First you want to begin talking to potential teachers about your goal of attending college. Even if you feel unsure, don't let this sway you from your decision to attend college. Keep a journal of your journey and keep track of teachers whom you are interested in providing a great letter of recommendation. Step in and say hello after you have taken their classes as teachers have many students and may forget that they had you in class. If your teacher has a blog, subscribe to it. If he or she participates in extra-curricular activities, see how you can volunteer to support the teacher. And lastly, make sure that you are a studious student paying attention to detail and doing the best you can in class. Participate and be active! All of the above can begin while in the 10th grade, but certainly by the 11th so that when you graduate, your teachers will have a lasting positive impression of you (the great student) whom they will gladly write a recommendation letter. Good luck! Keep a positive attitude!!!

Ryan Aldrich
Director of College Counseling The White Mountain School

How can planning increase a student's chance of getting great teacher recommendations?

Students need to be genuine. Strategically planning for a great teacher recommendation is staged and insincere. A student ought to ask a teacher for a recommendation based on personal connection, engagement, and passion for the subject area. Furthermore, a recommendation letter that is considered 'great' by one college may be interpreted differently at another school.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

How can planning increase a student's chance of getting great teacher recommendations?

You read my mind! Here's one of my favorite caveats: Plan your work, work your plan. No one plans to fail, but too many people fail to plan. Best time to get LOR's is after Jan. in the 10th, 11th, or even the 9th grade. At that time of year, teachers are no longer bombarded w/requests from desperate students. They'll have plenty of time to write a great LOR. Be sure to give them the name & address of the director of admissions at specific colleges you're applying to. Otherwise, they may address it, To whom it may concern; that's the same as, Dear Occupant, & we all know where that mail winds up! I've had situations where the teacher asked the student to write something & they signed it, but that was only after I enhanced it and it went back to the teacher for their final approval & signature.