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?

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

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

Putting together a package for teachers that includes your resume and a letter that indicates what your goals are, challenges have been, and how you have pursued them and persevered through adversity will help teachers understand what you want and how they can best help you. Giving teachers this package at the end of junior year will give teacher the most time to write a great letter without pressure. Also, the college application in not the first time a teacher should be writing for you. Apply for something earlier that requires a letter. If the teacher is proud of the letter and has written glowingly, they will often want to share their letter with you. A little early reconnaissance can be very informative and helpful.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

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

By asking for the recommendation well in advance and providing a written summary of the request you are showing respect for their time. Most teachers do not receive additional compensation for writing letters of recommendation which can be quite time consuming and so make it easy for them by giving them adequate time to write you a great letter of recommendation.

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora Lewis Consulting

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

High school teachers are asked to write many recommendations every school year. Most requests come from seniors in the fall, when the school year and admissions season are already in full swing. Teachers are busy teaching classes, they've got papers to grade as well as piles of recommendation letters to write. This is not a good scenario for the creation of a stellar recommendation letter. If you want to get a great letter, ask your teachers in the spring of junior year if they'd be willing to write a letter supporting your application. If they agree, provide them with a resume, brag sheet, and a few "memory joggers" describing projects you've done or papers you've written in their classes. If you have actual hard copies of class work you can copy and give them, so much the better. Let them know which schools you'll be applying to, and why each is on your list. Let them know that you'll be contacting them over the summer with more specific instructions about submitting their letters (typically, you'll send them a link from the Common Application that enables them to upload their recommendation). Be sure to get the email addresses where you can reach them over the summer. Be thankful and appreciative. Be available to answer any questions they might have while writing. When they've sent in your letters, always follow up with a thank you note. The really do mean a lot to teachers.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

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

First, planning will allow you to make your request early and avoid the rush of last minute requests made weeks before the deadline. When teachers and counselors have time to think, write, and revise, they produce higher quality letters. Next, planning allows you to secure your first choice teachers. I’ve known plenty of teachers who have to turn students away because that teacher is overwhelmed with requests and wouldn’t be able to write another quality letter in time. Finally, with some strategic planning you will not only choose the right people, you will be able to tell them why their letter is important to your overall application and what you hoped they could discuss.

Randi Heathman
Independent Educational Consultant The Equestrian College Advisor LLC

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

For great teacher recommendations, students need to engage in two types of planning: the first is planning AHEAD. The most popular teachers are normally bombarded with requests for letters from college-bound seniors on the first day of school each fall and, while they'll probably say yes to as many students as they can, when they're writing so many letters in such a short period of time, the quality of the writing and the specific information that they're able to recall and share (the very same information that will give admission officers a great picture of how students will fit into their university!) will be limited. The second type of planning is planning WHO will be asked. I always tell students to be aware of what, specifically, a teacher is most likely to say about them, e.g. that you had a remarkable breakthrough in their math class as a sophomore and it changed your outlook on the subject or that you are always the first to raise your hand and ask a really in-depth question in your history class. You never want to ask a teacher to write about you when there's even the most remote possiblity that he or she would have anything negative to say because you won't get a chance for rebuttal with the admission office - and, in fact, you probably won't ever get to see the letter to know what was said in the first place!

Suzanne Shaffer
Owner Parents Countdown to College Coach

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

If a student begins to cultivate relationships when they enter high school, they will be able to get great teacher recommendations during the college application process. Cultivating those relationships is key because if the teachers know you, they can write a more personal, detailed recommendation for you. Don't wait until the fall of senior year when teachers are swamped with recommendation requests. As them the beginning of the summer so they have time to think about it and write a better letter.

Natalie Sanchez Campos
Owner Next Step LLC

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

I recommend you plan 4-6 weeks in advance and asking five different people for recommendations. Supply each individual with you academic resume and transcript so that they can make informed and accurate statements in the recommendation Ensure that each individual you ask to share a recommendation has enough time (typically 4-6 weeks) to complete the recommendation and to submit it appropriately.

Andrew Belasco
CEO College Transitions LLC

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

To ensure a great letter of recommendation, it is important that students establish a relationship with their teacher at the outset of class, seeking opportunities to discuss their academic progress/interests, acquire help with a particular assignment or ask "follow-up" questions related to a class topic or activity--all the while being respectful of the teacher's time and other personal and professional obligations. Many teachers value enthusiasm as much as talent. It is also important to note that the best letters of recommendation are not necessarily reserved for the highest-achieving students. Letters of recommendation attesting to a student's work-ethic and/or resilience can often prove more effective than a letter of recommendation describing a student's great performance. Therefore, as long as the student is exhibiting conscientiousness and significant effort, he/she should not be afraid to seek the support of a teacher in an enjoyable yet particularly challenging course.