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?

Doris Klein
President Choice College Consulting

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

Planning ahead can maximize your chances of getting the best possible letters of recommendation. Keep an on-going “brag sheet’” for yourself throughout high school, to remind yourself of your accomplishments. Check with your guidance office, or the actual college you are applying to, to determine where and how the letters are submitted. Carefully consider which teacher to ask. You want a teacher who knows you, and who has a high opinion of you and your work. Make an attempt to get to know the teacher before you make the request. Participate in class discussions, and put extra effort into assignments and projects. Make your request early. It is important to remember that teachers are busy people who have lives outside of school, and will probably have to budget their time in order to write an insightful and meaningful letter that will help your chances of being accepted into the school you desire. You do not want to be one of many that a teacher has to finish within a week. Make the request in person. If the teacher has office hours, schedule an appointment. Ask the teacher if he wants to discuss anything with you prior to doing the letter. If he does, be honest in your discussion. You might want to bring in some facts from your brag sheet at this point. Tell the teacher how the letter is to be submitted, and by what date. And be sure to thank him! If a teacher does not feel that she can give you a good recommendation, thank her for her honesty, and request one of another teacher.

Amberley Wolf
College Consultant Wolf College Consulting

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

Planning and preparation can be extremely helpful in getting a strong teacher recommendation. Here are some tips that I give my students: 1) Ask your teachers before the middle of September if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation 2) Hand them a complete resume and a copy of your transcript before they write the letter of recommendation 3) If they have to mail the recommendation, give them the envelope with the address and postage already on the envelope 4) Choose your teacher wisely. Pick a teacher from a class that you have done well in (or improved greatly in). Pick a teacher that knows you well. And if possible pick a teacher that is in the area of what you want to study. For instance if you want to be a Creative Writing Major, pick an English teacher to write your recommendation. 5) Ask if you could have 10-15 minutes with them before they write the letter of recommendation for you to share your educational goals.

Mary Mariani

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

I have always asked students to do the following when they need a letter: 1) Give me two weeks 2) Write out some important facts about yourself that I can't find on your transcript 3) Why do you think you will be a good candidate for this particular school? 4) Tell me something that you have accomplished that shows hard work, determination and the ability to overcome frustration. 5)Tell me about your future goals and what have you already accomplished. 6) How do you handle frustration and problems. I believe it is important to give the person who is writing your letter more than enough information about you then he/she would need. Also make sure that the information talks about you as a "learner" - more than just gpa, list of classes, etc. That type of information is already on your transcript. I want students to let me know why they would stand out and why they would be successful on the college campus.

Scott Herrmann-Keeling
College Counselor

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

Planning ahead can make a difference to a student when seeking a teacher recommendation. It makes sense that teachers can write better letters for students they know well so the best plan is to get to know your teachers. How can you do this? The possibilities are many: • If you have a grasp of the material being taught, speak up in class. Answer questions posed by your teacher and/or your classmates. Volunteering your knowledge allows a teacher to see you’re really getting it and, in addition to helping your classmates, you will learn more as well by the way people respond to your comments. • If you’re having trouble understanding something, ask questions. If you’re not comfortable asking them in class, approach your teacher outside of class. Most teachers want to help you but they can’t if they don’t know you need help. Some of the best letters of recommendation come from teachers of students who may not have received a strong grade in a class but who worked hard, sought help, and never gave up. • If you have an interest in a club or activity that a teacher of yours is a part of, get involved. This allows you to have an outlet for your talent and also allows your teacher to see you in a different way. The best letters of recommendation include information about your scholarship, classroom behavior, ability and willingness to seek help, and information about what kind of person you are in other contexts as well. The more ways a teacher has to see who you are, the better the letter he or she will write for you. If you’re really planning ahead to the best of your ability, you should identify teachers you get along with and who you may want to ask to write a letter for you by the mid-point of your junior year. If you haven’t already been doing so, follow the above steps to begin to cultivate the relationship. Be genuine about it, your primary goal is to understand the material and help your class become a stronger, more cohesive learning environment. Once you feel you’ve established a solid relationship with that teacher, ask if he or she would be willing to write on your behalf. Doing this with at least a month left in your junior year will give your teacher plenty of time to really observe you in the classroom setting and, if necessary, gather more information for the letter. It will also give the teacher the option to write the letter on his or her own pace, before the school year ends, over the summer, or in the fall, whichever best suits.

Janet Elfers

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

Teachers often live by the philosophy that your procrastination should not be their problem. If you plan ahead, teachers will respect and appreciate you and will be more thoughtful about their recommendations. Plan ahead by knowing exactly how many colleges you'll be using the teacher recommendation for, by knowing exactly how many recommendations you need, by providing all the information and materials teachers need to complete the task, and by allowing plenty of time for the writing and processing. In my school, we suggested giving teachers two full work weeks' notice. And don't forget those thank you notes!

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!!!

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

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

Having a prepared resume that you can provide a teacher with can ease the process for stressed out and overburdened teachers yielding a better letter of reference. Include relevant information that can help them write an informed letter.

Charlotte Klaar
Director Klaar College Consulting LLC

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

It is important that the teacher who is asked to give you a letter of recommendation is one with whom you have a good rapport. It is not necessarily the teacher who gave you the highest grade. Sometimes, it is the teacher in whose class you struggled but who recognized how hard you worked who will be able to give you the best recommendation. In order to make sure that the letter is warm and genuine, take some time to sit down and talk to the teacher about what you do outside of class and outside of school. As a courtesy, make an appointment with the teacher and bring to that appointment your activities list and discuss with him or her what elements of your character and academic passion you would like to have showcased in the letter. Since you will be asking for two letters from different teachers, have each of them showcase a different aspect of you as a learner. Tell each of them who the other writer will be so that they can, perhaps, ensure that there is no duplication in their letters.

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.