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?

Dawn Smith

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

Choose teachers who know you well and like you! Pick teachers who have taught you either junior or senior years.  English teachers tend to write well, so they are usually a good bet.  An academic teacher who has also known you outside the classroom (through clubs or sports teams) is generally an excellent choice.  Ask a teacher who respects you and can testify to some of your intangible qualities, i.e. intellectual curiosity, academic passion.  The best teacher to ask is not necessarily the one who gave you the highest grade. Sometimes, picking a teacher in a class where you have struggled and persevered, might be an excellent option.

Robin Smith

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

Definitely ask your teachers if they can accommodate you as soon as possible. Do not delay! If they are already overwhelmed with requests for recommendations from other students, they may turn you down.

Plus, carefully prepare, in advance, a packet of all materials that they will need to write a detailed and complete evaluation. You should include a resume that provides detailed information about your activities, jobs, and academic achievements, evaluation forms on which you completed the waiver and basic information sections in advance, addressed and stamped mailing envelopes (plus a little note on the bottom-left corner of the envelope that displays the application deadlines (unless your school will be submitting all their forms online), plus a thank-you note, considering the time and extra effort that you are asking them to make on your behalf.

After a few weeks time, come up with a tactful way to ask your teacher if they have finished your evaluations in time for the deadline!

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

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

Getting great teacher recommendations is hugely important . . . and getting them is in your hands as a responsible and enthusiastic student. Professors are impressed with students who are on top of their assignments and curious about the material presented in class. When a professor schedules a paper, map out a proposal or draft for how you'd address the topic and see him or her after class or during office hours. Chances are that your professor will be only too happy to help. With the professor's comments as a guide, there won't be any surprises (except a good grade) when you get the paper back. If you have some unique insight or perspective on a topic, see the professor. Perhaps you will eventually gain a role as a member of a research team sponsored by the particular professor. The great recommendation should be an outgrowth of that involvement and attitude.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

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

provide your teacher a list of comments about yourself, ask the rigth teachers to write the recommendations. do not wait until the last min.

William Chichester

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

Give teachers at least six-12 months of time to get this turned around because most teachers will have all of their students reaching out to them. Good students that get good recommendations are mindful of the teacher's/recommender's schedule. Giving a recommender tight turnaround times can diminish quality.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Ask early and politely

Teachers are not required to write you letters of recommendation, so do understand that they would be doing you a favor. The most popular teachers can get overwhelmed with requests, and begin to say no. So, the best plan is to confirm with your teachers that they would be willing to write you a letter by the end of junior year. In general, English teachers and History teachers are often the best writers, You might want to hand them a copy of your resume, to help them have some context for their letter. And a short Thank-you note would be much appreciated by them.

Lisa Hatch
Independent College Counselor College Primers

Planning Ahead - (And Asking Early!) Can Give You an Edge

Asking your favorite teachers for college admissions recommendations may not head the top of your back-to-school “to do” list, but perhaps you’re not giving this task enough respect. Admissions officials want to hear from people they trust (your high school teachers) about why they should choose YOU as opposed to the thousands of other applicants they’ve heard from. And if you wait until October to ask your teachers to help you out, they may not have time to give college a comprehensive look at your overall greatness. To keep your admissions portfolio from presenting the same old boilerplate recommendation letters that college admissions officials have seen a dozen times before (yes – they notice things like that!), seek out your teachers before they become inundated with requests from four hundred of your peers. Hitting teachers up for recommendations early on in the school year not only gives them ample time to create a personalized, thoughtful letter but also improves their opinion of you for not adding to the mass of requests they’ll receive simultaneously in November as a result of your less-prepared classmates’ procrastination.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

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

The best way to plan ahead with regards to letters of recommendation is to be an active and engaged student in class. Pay attention, ask thoughtful questions, and be a considerate student and classmate to your teacher and peers. If you are particularly interested in a specific topic -- ask your teacher for further resources. You don't need to "kiss up" to the teacher or pretend to have an intellectual interest. However, if you are genuinely interested in something -- try to pursue it -- regardless of any "extra credit" involved. Being an active participant in your learning process (rather than being a whiny grade grubber) is a great way to show your maturity and character in the classroom. By doing this, you will not only learn for enjoyment -- but you might also receive a great teacher evaluation!

Wendy Andreen, PhD
College & Career Planning

Help Your Teachers Write the Best Recs

#1 suggestion - build a rapport with your teachers during your JUNIOR year while doing your best in class! In most cases, it will be a teacher from your core classes during junior year who will write your rec letters. I meet with juniors early in the school year and remind them how important it is to not only do their best work in every class but get to know their teachers. Colleges don't want teachers to regurgitate what can be found on a student's resume or activities section of the application. Colleges want to know things like the student has critical thinking skills in the subject, can handle rigorous course work, participates in class, offers insightful comments, demonstrates honesty and ethical behavior, is punctual and prepared for class, works well with classmates, as well as provides leadership characteristics. You may not be perfect in all of these categories but you can demonstrate your strengths in class daily. Your teacher will be able to write about those strengths with specific examples. #2 suggestion - at the end of your junior year (before you leave for the summer), if you know which teachers you would like to write your letters, make a personal visit to their classroom and ask them if they will write a letter on your behalf when you return to school in the fall (or end of summer). Tell them you will bring them all the information they need at that time. Once they agree, you will be a step ahead when you return to school as a senior. #3 suggestion - follow your high school's requirements for getting information to your teachers. If there is no process in place, provide a pocket folder for each teacher that includes a copy of your resume (as a courtesy - remember they are writing about your strengths in the classroom) which contains your full name and contact information, a page with your list of colleges, their deadline dates, any ID# the teacher needs for each school to include in the letter (such as birth date), stamped, addressed envelopes for each college or the email information for online recs. Include on the page any other helpful information (like your intended major) so your teacher can write the best possible letter for you.

Brian D. Crisp
Founder and President Crisp Consulting + Coaching; Burton College Tours

Prime Time

With lives of teachers and students becoming increasingly busy, it is critical to plan. Failure to plan could jeopardize a needed letter of recommendation. To avoid any surprises, create a calendar noting when your letters of recommendation are due, typically two to three weeks before the application deadlines. Teachers have busy lives and the fall semester often brings extra responsibilities, therefore ask teachers early and include your deadline in your requests. If the teachers are not using an electronic format, providing an envelope addressed to the admission office will assist in expediting the process.