How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?
Show teachers consistently, and from Day 1, that you care about what you do, and that you’re determined to not just learn the material but to absorb it and use it to learn more about the subject. Phony last minute attempts to seem “engaged” will not sway a smart teacher. You must be a genuine, passionate student and contributor to school life, inside and outside the classroom, to prove to teachers that it’s worth their time to recommend you. It works. You just cannot fake it in the late fall of your senior year of high school.
You can get the best teacher recommendations by being an engaged, interested, thinking student in your high school classes. Teachers appreciate students who “help” them develop their lessons by being attentive, participating, and challenging students. You don’t have to have earned an “A” in the course for a teacher to value your contributions. Classroom engagement and contribution is one of the qualities college faculty want, so if you hone these skills in high school, then ask the teachers who have noticed your interest to write recommendations, you’ll be a step in the right direction.
The first step would be to make sure the teacher knows you well enough to be able to recommend you. Recommendation don’t always stem from academic excellence, but some things teachers tend to pay attention to are leadership qualities and initiative. Standing out from your peers in a positive way can easily win you a recommendation.
“Meet your teacher halfway” is the way to think when it comes to recommendations — schedule meetings, have a resume and all the forms/envelopes handy, tell them what you want to study in college. Remember that teachers evaluate you on “respect accorded by faculty,” “disciplined work habits,” “maturity,” “motivation,” “concerns for others,” and “initiative” among other things (see the Common App’s teacher evaluation form). If you arrive with everything prepared and have thought about what you might want to study in college, teachers are compelled to give you high marks in the evaluation.
In a few words: make a positive impression in class, and always strive to better yourself. I have read phenomenal teacher recommendations for students who did not necessarily ace every test, but who worked diligently in their classes, participated frequently, and showed a true desire in the class he or she is taking. An academic superstar who coasts through all of his or her work and demonstrates little real interest in the material may receive an “A” in the class, but will not leave a positive impression on the teacher. Remember, being a “good student” is not just about grades. It is about motivation, dedication, teamwork, and making a positive contribution to class overall. It is important for the student to choose his or her teacher recommenders strategically. If you were both an “A” student in a class but were the class clown, it might not benefit you to ask that teacher for a recommendation. If you worked hard all year in a different class, earned a B, and showed a real interest in the academic material, then you would be better off asking this teacher for a recommendation. Ask yourself: what classes were really meaningful to me? Which teachers inspired me, and which teachers did I feel like I connected with? Look deeper into yourself than just the grade you received for the class. Ask yourself: what would the teacher think if I asked for a letter of recommendation? Regarding timing, remember this rule: ask for that recommendation early! By the end of your junior year, you should have identified your potential teacher recommenders and hopefully will ask them by the second to last week of school. Don’t wait until exams to ask: teachers have a lot on their plates at that time. The more time your teacher has to write you recommendation, the more time they have to think about it, which usually results in a stronger letter. After a teacher has said “yes” to writing your letter of recommendation, you should ask your teacher whether he or she would like to have any additional information about you. Some teachers appreciate receiving “brag sheets” that provide details about a student’s accomplishments both in and outside class. If your English teacher is writing you a letter of recommendation, it would be helpful to remind him that you won a poetry competition or worked as an editor for the school newspaper. These little details help bring your academic story to life, and makes the letter of recommendation more interesting to read.
Students need to follow these steps to get the most glowing teacher recommendations: 1. Find out exactly how many letters of recommendation are required. Some schools require none, but many (especially private) schools require at least one (but can require 2 and allow even 3). 2. Find out who needs to write the letters. In addition to the teacher letters of recommendation (also known as a “Teacher Evaluation”), many schools also require a “Secondary School Report,” which must be completed by a school counselor or administrator. In the Secondary School Report there is a section for an evaluation to be included…so a counselor or an administrator will also usually attach a letter of recommendation. Many campuses suggest that the applicants get letters of recommendation from teachers who have taught them in academic subjects during the junior or senior year. For any of the over 400 Common Application schools, there is a very useful grid that lists the letter of recommendation requirements by campus. For non-Common App schools, make sure you review the individual websites of the colleges in which you are interested EARLY (towards the end of your junior year) to find out what each campus requires. Some campuses, in addition to requiring teacher letters and/or counselor letters/reports, will allow additional letters from a local community member, clergy, or other people who can endorse and applicant’s candidacy. 3. Define your timeline. College applications are usually completed during the first semester of senior year, so applicants should seek letters early in their senior year (some teachers like to have requests by the end of junior year, so they have the summer to write them, but most educators like having their summers free). Students should ask their teachers and counselors in person for a letter, and by asking in a timely fashion (never wait until the last minute…and give at LEAST two weeks notice) they will have a much better chance of getting one written (especially from popular teachers). 4. Provide each writer with a “brag sheet.” Keep in mind that ideal letters of recommendation are NOT simply recaps of your application…so the material the teachers and counselor should be including in their letters should be relevant and unique. Many schools have a brag sheet (or some variation of a brag sheet) that includes a series of questions a student answers in some detail. The answers a student provides gives the writers greater depth, and portrays the student in a different context than the classroom or counseling office. If students answer the questions in great detail, even writers who do not know them well can provide a much more meaningful letter. 4. Grant permission to send information. By law, students’ private information is protected by FERPA. To allow anyone to send anything that is protected under FERPA (such as GPA/test scores/educational records in general), students must grant permission to release such information. On college applications, students are generally asked not only if they consent to allow information to be sent but also if they “waive” or “do not waive” their right of access. Waiving access means that whether or not they are admitted they will never be able to read whatever was written about them. Although it might not seem like the thing to do, college admission reps are MUCH more likely to consider the content of letters of recommendation IF the applicant WAIVES the right of access…because the responses are considered much more candid. 5. Provide any required electronic links/invites and/or paperwork. Generally, for Common Application schools, students must “invite” those who are writing letters of recommendation (Teacher Evaluations) and Secondary Reports. To do so, the students must fill out the educational section, add a college, then invite their teachers and counselor by filling out specific information (e-mail, title, name. position, subject), and submitting the request. The teacher and counselor then receive an e-mail with a link to the Common App and a password to log in. They use this link to electronically submit their letters of recommendation and a transcript. For non-Common Application schools, pay particular attention to the application instructions regarding letters of recommendation/evaluations. Some have e-mail invites, others have a different system. In general, most if not all colleges prefer electronic submission of materials…so try to avoid the “snail mail” paperwork route! 6. Thank those who wrote you letters!
Start by building relationships with your teachers early on. If a teacher knows you well, he or she is going to be more likely to want to write for you and do a good job doing it. You don’t have to pick the teacher for whom you always earned the A. Pick the teacher who knows that you always gave your best, regardless of the outcome. Always give your teacher adequate time and find out if there is anything he or she would like for you to fill out in advance (like a questionnaire from the counseling office). Ask your counselor his or her advice on who you should ask if you are really stumped. Counselors often know which teachers are overburdened and which will write the best rec for you.
The best teacher recommendations are written by teachers who understand and respect the student they are writing for. These teachers would have been given plenty of advance notice, and they have taught the student either in 11th or 12th grade in a core academic subject (or if this student is going for the arts, then a teacher in their area of expertise). I have a worksheet that I give students to fill out for their teacher, telling them what they would like the teacher to emphasize in the letter, and also what they valued most about the class that teacher taught. It should be clear when this letter is needed, and whether this letter is to be mailed (in which case you give them a pre-addressed and stamped envelope), or uploaded to the common application website. Sometimes a counselor at your school can guide you towards the best writers, or away from those who don’t produce very convincing letters. Just remember, you are asking for a favor, so be respectful and polite and be sure to thank them later!
If you have great rapport w/that person & they are impressed with your accomplishments.
Before asking a teacher to write you a recommendation letter, compile a resume or activities list outlining your accomplishments, academic goals, and extra curricular activities.
Then, ask a teacher that can actually speak to who you are as a person. You want the teacher to address your character more than reiterate how bright you are (your grades already show them that :). Choose a teacher that doubles as your sponsor for the National Honor’s Society and your British Lit. teacher. The recommender that knows more about who you are outside of the classroom should be able to provide a stronger letter than a teacher that only served as your AP Calculus AB Instructor.
* Don’t forget to kindly ask your teacher to write the letter, provide them the details and instructions about the school, program, or scholarship of which you are applying, and the resume you worked on earlier!
There are steps that you can take that will ensure that when the teacher most capable of doing this task for you accepts your invitation to do this, they are equipped to do it efficiently and effectively.
First, you should identify the teacher based on the academic area to which you will apply. For example, your accounting teacher is probably more appropriate than your music theory teacher to write a recommendation for you if you are applying to major in accounting.
Second, when you ask the teacher, be prepared with a great “one minute elevator” speech. In other words, you have one minute to ask the teacher to write the recommendation but it must also be convincing and genuine. When you ask, it is important to explain why you have chosen them and what you would hope they would discuss in the recommendation. This helps to frame in their mind the context of the recommendation and their ability to achieve your request without putting too much burden on their workload. Remember, good and popular teachers tend to be asked a lot and at some point they have to start saying no. If you currently have them for a class it makes asking all the easier because they are currently familiar with your work.
Third, be prepared to give the teacher a copy of the curriculum for your major from the school to which you will apply as well as any instructions for them to follow in preparing the letter. Some schools are seeking very specific information from teachers about their future students.
Fourth, make a list of the attributes or accomplishments that you have achieved in high school and especially bring their attention to the ones which they have specific knowledge about your abilities.
Fifth, it is always a good idea to give them an example of your work and especially well done assignments that you had completed for them. This will help to remind them about the quality of your work and other attributes that they have associated with you since they have gotten to know you.
Sixth, provide them with a copy of your future career and intended major goals. They need to better understand where you see yourself going and how this school may be the right place to help you accomplish those goals.
Next, remember to provide them with a stamped and addressed envelope if it is to be mailed to your school. Most importantly, remember to thank them for completing the letter and follow up with them about the final outcome of your applications. I am sure they would like to know how the end of your application story turns out.
Make sure you provide them with plenty of information to work with and give them a fair amount of notice. A simple sheet with some information about you, necessary deadlines, address etc., can go a long way to securing a quality letter of reccomendation. For more information, check: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/apply/the-application/119.html
Go to the teacher whom you admire and who admire you.
Keep in mind, teachers are people too! With that said, many teachers enjoy the support they receive from their students. This can be done by volunteering to assist your teachers; helping other students who need extra support; and lastly keeping a positive attitude while in school and out. Teachers appreciate the student who goes above and beyond, in the old days we called this student the “teacher’s pet”. Many laugh at that, but teachers put a lot of effort into teaching and they often enjoy when they can have help. Don’t over extend yourself, don’t take on any task that you know you can not perform. Just be yourself and volunteer when you can. It will help you in the long run as well as the teacher and your peers. This is your future, doing the best you can at making a positive impression can go along way. Teachers will be more apt at helping those students who are not afraid to help others. This will also help you to learn how to give to others as you to want others to give to you. Helping out will push you to the top of the list of recommendations. Keep a positive attitude in all you do. Keep your parents informed and seek their assistance as well.
Ask early! Don’t put this off until the last moment. It’s a great idea to “prep” your teacher. For example: Dear Ms. Martinez, I really appreciate you writing this letter of recommendation to Duke for me. I thought you might mention: – How you’ve known me for 3 years, first as my AP British Literature teacher, then as the NHS sponsor, and again as my AP Composition teacher.
– Remember last year you told me you appreciated my work ethic and how I always completed assignments on time and thoroughly?
-The NHS food drive I coordinated last year with your help. We collected over 300 cans of food for the Suncoast Harvest Food Center.
– My award-winning entry in the school writing contest last year. And whatever else you might think pertinent. Thanks, Mrs. Martinez!
Sam Student Or whatnot. Make his/her job easier by giving specific details they might share in their letter. And following up with a thank you card and $5 Starbuck’s gift certificate is always a great idea!
Go to the teacher whom you admire and who admire you. Ask nicely, let the teacher know how bad you want to succeed in your future, and a perfect letter of recommendation will appear naturally!
There are four things that will certainly help you achieve the best teacher recommendations: 1) Academic Focus – put forth your best effort in your classes. Teachers appreciate students who try (even if they do not earn an A in the class). 2) Timing – Give your teacher plenty of heads up that you would like them to write a recommendation for you. Ideally, at the start of your Senior year you should speak with the teachers you would like to be a reference. This will give you time to ask another teacher to be a reference in case a teacher is not able to serve as a reference. You should provide your teacher the recommendation form, a stamped addressed return envelope, and the deadline at least 6 weeks before you need the recommendation submitted. 3) Aspirations – Share your goals and interests with your teacher. Provide them with a resume of your activities, interests, and leadership. This will assist your teacher in preparing the best recommendation possible. 4) Ask – Most importantly you will want to ask your teacher if they would be able to write a positive recommendation for you.
It makes sense that teachers can write better letters for students they know well so the way to get the best recommendation is to get to know your teachers. Try the following: • 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 can write for you. 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 a relationship. Be genuine: your primary goal is to understand the material and help your class become a stronger, more cohesive learning environment. A great letter of recommendation will flow naturally from your efforts. 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 and time frame. When you ask your teacher for the letter (do so in person, btw), make sure you have a resume to provide. This will ensure your teacher doesn’t forget anything important about you. Mention anything specific you hope the teacher will include in the letter (perhaps a particular project you did in class or a problem you helped solve).
The best recommendations come from teachers in your junior or senior year that you have a good relationship with. Maybe it’s a teacher you’ve had more than one class with or who taught a class that was difficult for you. A generic letter won’t say more than what’s already in your file and that this student is a good kid who deserves to go to college. A great letter gives examples that speak to your character. This is a chance for admissions officers to get to know you, so it should be written by someone who knows you well enough to include specific information about you: personal strengths, academic successes, things like that. Take some time to visit with your guidance counselor too, since s/he will also write a letter about you. And one last thing– don’t leave this to the last minute! Give your letter writers several weeks notice and don’t forget to follow up.
The best way to get quality teacher recommendations is to choose teachers who truly know you the best. Give teachers that your are requesting a recommendation from a resume of your academics, activities, awards, community service, etc, etc. Don’t just think the teacher knows me. Give the teacher “too much” information. See if you can sit down and interview with the teacher. Clarify or explain the most vital points on your resume. Think about choosing a teacher where in his/her class, you really stick out. Maybe you went above and beyond in a class project, you lead class discussions, you really rise above classmates in one or more areas.
I always create a “brag packet” for my clients. We pick 4 of their teachers and provide them with the brag packet. I have had a high return of good teacher recommendations. When we did a survey to ask the teachers how we could improve, they all credited the brag packet with making it very easy for them to write the letters of recommendation.
When students think about teacher recommendations, they usually first consider asking the teacher in whose class they received the coveted “A.” That sometimes leads to them receiving a letter that says something like this: “John is a good student. He received an A in my class.” Now — that doesn’t give the admissions office any information that the transcript doesn’t already provide, right? Let’s think about why college ask of letters of recommendation. Colleges look to teachers for information about the student’s class behavior, character, and personality. The best letters of recommendation, therefore, are the ones that can provide insight into a student’s work habits, strength of character, and intellectual curiosity. That might mean that a student might receive a stronger letter from a teacher in whose course she struggled mightily to get a B- than from a teacher in whose course she received an A without much effort. So — think about which teacher knows you best in terms of who you are as a student and as a member of the school community when considering someone as a provider of a recommendation letter.
First and foremost: Be involved in the class, perform at your level, and strive to improve (or demonstrate improvement. Being involved in class means that you participate in class discussions (while not dominating them), ask questions, help weaker students, and work well with your peers. Performing at your level means that you are consistently getting doing your work and getting the grades you are capable of getting; few things underwhelm teachers as much as seeing a student who is just phoning it in when they could easily be getting better grades. This also plays into striving to improve: you don’t have to be the best student in the class to get a great recommendation. If you are seeking out the teacher to get extra help, working hard, and improving throughout the course, the teacher is more likely to go out of his/her way to write a good recommendation. Aside from doing well in class, though, remember to ask a teacher at the end of your 11th grade year and get them to commit to writing the letter, but also provide them with more information about why you want the letter from them. Some teachers have forms to fill out, but if they don’t, write them an email explaining why you liked their class, what your favorite activities were, what your favorite project was, what your favorite reading was, and also what you are interested studying in the future. If there are any circumstances that prevented you from doing as well as you could have–you had to work, take care of siblings, had family issues–make sure the teacher is aware. If you make the effort and give them the appropriate amount of time, a teacher will write you a solid recommendation.
Recently, students have been asking several teachers for letters of recommendation, reading them, and then selecting the “best” ones. Unfortunately, this is not a good way to get the “best” recommendation. Start by waiving your rights to view the recommendation. If you have access to the letters (or your parents have access), the letter is deemed “biased” by the colleges. The admissions representatives know that the teacher had to be careful to write the letter so that you/your parents would not object to any of the information. A true recommendation will provide the good and the areas of improvement of a student. Most students/parents do not want the areas of improvement to be part of the letter because they believe it will decrease the chances for admission. The next thing you can do is evaluating which teacher(s) who can write your recommendation. Strongly consider a teacher who teaches a class that you may have struggled in. This teacher can probably attest to your determination and commitment to improve your grade (seeking help when needed, doing extra work, etc.). Teachers who teach a class that was easy for you will not have constructive criticism to provide the admission committee. Lastly, approach the teacher(s) well ahead of time and verbally ask them if they would write a letter of recommendation for you. Do not email them or write a note. Once they have said yes, then write a cover letter explaining why you need the recommendation, the deadline(s), and who to address it to. Provide the teacher with the cover letter, your resume, and addressed, stamped envelopes to the college. Don’t forget the thank you note to the teacher afterwards.
START BY ASKING THE RIGHT PERSON…. Oftentimes a student will seek out a teacher recommendation based on who gave them the highest grade- This is the wrong approach! When considering asking for a teacher recommendation, you should automatically be thinking of the person with whom you have the best rapport. Perhaps you did not start off well in this teacher’s class. Maybe they watched you struggle, but ultimately saw you overcome a challenge. They watched you grow and put your best foot forward. This should be an individual who you feel comfortable speaking with, and someone that you may have been able to approach in difficult times. Ultimately, you are looking to get someone who can highlight what you have to offer and can shed the best light on your strengths. Remember because this is such an important task, you want to take the time to consider your options. In addition, ask the teacher in person (not by email) for the recommendation and allow them ample time, generally slightly more than 14 days, to accomplish this task for you. Keep in mid a thank you either in person or note (yes, an old fashioned card) is always appreciated!
If you want strong letters of recommendation, make sure you ask teachers who know you best and are capable of making honest and well-written assessments of your work ethic, study habits, grasp of material, analytical ability, and personal strengths. Typically a letter of recommendation will include comments that will help a university admissions committee in their final evaluation of your candidacy, so if the teacher knows about your extracurricular efforts or if you’ve developed a strong relationship with them, that’s all the better!
Choose the teacher that you feel knows you best. Empty superlatives won’t work in letters of rec. We need specific examples. Don’t just choose the popular teacher because they are easier to ask. Choose the teacher that engaged you, that challenged you, that saw you overcome obstacles. That have some meat to what they are going to write about you.
While it’s probably a good idea to get a recommendation from a teacher whose class you’ve done well in, it should be an even higher priority to get one from a teacher who you really feel *knows* you and can speak highly about your character. Even if you struggled in that class and maybe didn’t do as well in it as others, if that teacher saw how hard you worked and got a real sense of you from out of class interactions (perhaps you went for extra help which showed how much you cared about the class) he/she will be able to speak more candidly (and less generically) about your character.
Oftentimes a student will seek out a teacher recommendation based on who gave them the highest grade- This is the wrong approach! When considering asking for a teacher recommendation, you should automatically be thinking of the person with whom you have the best rapport. Perhaps you did not start off well in this teacher’s class. Maybe they watched you struggle, but ultimately saw you overcome a challenge. They watched you grow and put your best foot forward. This should be an individual who you feel comfortable speaking with, and someone that you may have been able to approach in difficult times. Ultimately, you are looking to get someone who can highlight what you have to offer and can shed the best light on your strengths. Remember because this is such an important task, you want to take the time to consider your options. In addition, ask the teacher in person (not by email) for the recommendation and allow them ample time, generally slightly more than 14 days, to accomplish this task for you. Keep in mid a thank you either in person or note (yes, an old fashioned card) is always appreciated!
The best recommendations reflect the way a student has approached their education, attesting to a student’s love of learning and of the positive impact they have on the learning experience of all. The colleges will see your grades, so the recommendations need to put a human face on those grades. Students should establish relationships with teachers so that they can get to know them and can write a recommendation that says more than that they did a great job—as the grades shows. Indeed, for the strongest students the best recommendations often come from a teacher in a class where the student struggled for the recommender’s description of how the student faced that challenge may be far more valuable than yet another recitation of their great work. Recommendations should add to the picture of the student and let the school know what kind of person—not GPA—will be attending.
Students should begin to form relationships with teachers as soon as they start high school. Not just for recommendations but because teachers can be incredible mentors. Students should plan to ask teachers to serve as a recommender during the second half of junior year. They should provide the teacher with a resume and graded papers or work from that teacher’s class, to jog their memory. At the beginning of senior year ask teachers that you plan to for recommendations. Be sure to allow plenty of time and provide them with the appropriate forms or utilize the online portion of the Common Application. Always send a nice thank you note!
Make a genuine effort to get to know teachers over the course of your high school career. Often being a member of a team or club that a teacher is involved with or taking two courses from the same teacher can help. If a subject is of particular interest, let teachers know and ask if they would be willing to recommend additional reading and talk with you about it. Ask them to supervise an independent research project. Participate in class, and encourage your peers with enthusiasm, but try not to dominate others or show off. Sometimes great letters come from teachers of classes that you struggled in. If you are struggling in a class, ask for help early and often and dedicate yourself to doing your best.
Ask teachers who know your work ethic the best. It would be a great idea to ask club advisors or coaches for recommendations. Also, if you are asking an English teacher to write you a letter of recommendation, give them a copy of your best work so they can make more positive comments about you!
Get to know your teachers, allowing them to get to know you. The better they know you the stronger the recommendation. Ideally you want to build relationships upon entering high school, so by time you need your recommendations you would have a number of teachers to choose from. Once relationships have been established and you are ready to make requests you should provide each teacher with a form/sheet filled out by you, about you. Include personal characteristics, strengths, favorite subjects, academic awards/honors, extracurriculars, volunteerism/community service, etc. Also be sure to include the purpose of the recommendation, whether it is a college or scholarship application with a few details about it. You could create a recommendation form using a simple outline format. Fill in one form with your personal information, and make copies for all recommendation prospects. Always allow 2 weeks (with reminders) for teachers to follow through on your request.
To get the best recommendations, students need to first ask those teachers that they have had within the last two years and have had success in their class. It should be a teacher that knows you well and maybe you have interacted with outside the classroom as well. You want the teacher to be as knowledgable about you as possible. Even though you may think this teacher knows everything about you, teachers sometimes teach over 80 students a day and so they could use a few reminders. Whether you prepare a sheet of information just for that teacher or give them a resume you typed up, they need something to look at that will remind them or fill them in on who you are and what you have done. Finally, give them plenty of time to do it. I say give them two weeks notice. If you inform them well in advance and make it known to them what deadlines you are trying to meed, they will be happy to get the letter done in time. If you ask them a few days before the letter needs to be submitted, it is more than likely that they will not be able to write a good letter because they will be rushed and probably perturbed that you didn’t give them enough time.
It is important to consider who you have worked most closely with through the course of your high school career. It is vital that you select teachers who have seen you work hard, pursue your goals, and achieve in areas of personal and academic interest. Teachers writing your letters of recommendation should be able to effectively describe your attributes and their confidence in your capability to excell in college.
Teacher recommendations are not intended to focus on your extracurricular accomplishments. Colleges get information about what you’ve done outside the classroom from the rest of your application. What they’re hoping to find out from your teachers is who you are inside the classroom. How strong are your writing and critical thinking skills? Do you make valuable contributions to classroom discussions? Will you be able to handle college level work? What’s your intellectual potential? To get the best answers to questions like these, colleges prefer recommendations from teachers who have had you in class recently — in either 11th or 12th grade. They also want to hear from teachers in core academic subjects: English, math, science, social studies, or foreign language. Don’t automatically assume that your recommendations must come from the teachers who gave you the best grades. In some cases, it may be better to ask a teacher who saw you struggle, but who knows and respects your determination to master the material. The teacher who gave you an easy “A” may not have much to say about you beyond that. Also consider the teacher’s teaching style: A creative teacher who encourages class discussion may have more to say about you than a teacher whose class is lecture-based.
As a high school counselor, I am asked to write multiple letters of recommendation each year. Unfortunately, most of these requests come at the same busy time of year (mid-Spring) which lessen my ability to spend the time and effort I want to on each letter. Because of this, the best thing students can do to increase their chances of getting an excellent letter of recommendation is ASK EARLY! Also, provide your teacher with a student resume, or a list of extracurricular activities, community involvement and leadership positions held. I know that you are a very unique individual, but remember that your teacher has hundreds of students and could really use the memory refresher. Make sure to let your teacher know if the letter of recommendation needs to follow a certain format or include certain topics, and if the letter must be submitted online. And, this should go without saying, but ask our teacher politely if they can provide a POSITIVE recommendation for you. Don’t just assume that they are going to talk about how you are the greatest student ever. If they are not able to provide a positive reference, find a teacher that can, and then thank them profusely once they have done so. Good luck! 🙂
Students should begin to form relationships with teachers as soon as they start high school. Not just for recommendations but because teachers can be incredible mentors. Students should plan to ask teachers to serve as a recommender during the second half of junior year. They should provide the teacher with a resume and graded papers or work from that teacher’s class, to jog their memory. At the beginning of senior year ask teachers that you plan to for recommendations. Be sure to allow plenty of time and provide them with the appropriate forms or utilize the online portion of the Common Application. Always send a nice thank you note!
Francine Schwartz M.A., LPC, NCC
Founder and President
Pathfinder Counseling LLC
Most students tend to ask the same teachers and they wait until the fall of the senior year. If you ask your teachers in the spring of your junior year you have a better chance of the teacher agreeing to write it and of the teacher witing a more thoughtful recommendation because he or she will have more time to write it. It can be helpful to the teacher if you give him or her a resume with your activities and also a sheet of paper explaining what was important to you about the class you had with him/her. Other information the teacher might find helpful includes: academic areas of interest (majors), summer plans, career aspirations, and colleges you are considering.
Think carefully about whom you will ask. Ask the person who knows you and your work best not necessarily the class where you get the best grade, although the two are not always mutually exclusive. Prepare a summary of the points you would like covered in the recommendation and include some specific examples from class. Allow the teacher plenty of time to write it.and be sure to thank you teacher, preferable in writing.
Get a teacher who knows you well enough to vouch for your character, has a good read on your abilities as a student, and you are confident they will speak highly of you. This is almost always a teacher who teaches grade 11 classes. Be aware however, that probably 2/3 of your class will also hit up these teachers for recommendations as well. Make sure you give them plenty of notice before you need the recommendation. A thank you note is always a good follow up gesture.
It is important to pick a teacher that you have a good relationship AND who is a strong writer. Student are often unable to read the recommendation before it is sent to the college, so students should trust that the teacher will present them in the best possible way. Even if a teacher knows you, if they are not a strong writer, the recommendation may not present you as well as a teacher who writes well. Also, it is important to ask early on in the college application process, preferably during junior year so that the teacher has adequate time to put thought in the recommendation.
Ideally, students should have one recommendation from a teacher in the humanities and one in math/science. Your recommenders should be teachers who know you and your work well, and who have taught you in the last two years (junior year teachers are best). When you’ve decided who you’d like to write your recommendations, ask those teachers in person if they are willing to compose a letter for you. Approach them in the spring of junior year, NOT in the fall of senior year (teachers often write better letters in the more relaxed summer months). Before you leave for vacation in June, give them a reminder that you’ll be sending more information about the letter you need in a few weeks. Provide your teachers with a “brag sheet” or resume detailing you academic and extracurricular accomplishments, including any work experience. It’s also helpful to write a brief paragraph about specific papers or projects you did in their class (this can help jog their memories as well as give them evidence to use in supporting their discussion of your academic abilities). Be sure you check any boxes and sign any agreements on your recommendation forms indicating that you waive your right to see the recommendation letters. It’s fine if the teachers later want to show you the letters, but recommendations are only considered valuable information by colleges if you haven’t seen them prior to their submission. If you are using the Common Application, send the invitation link to your teachers as soon as it becomes available. Check periodically to see if the letters have been uploaded; if not, it’s fine to send a kind reminder. Once the letters are complete, send handwritten thank you notes to your teachers. Writing recommendation letters can be time consuming and challenging; most teachers are more than happy to write them, but it’s always nice to show your gratitude.
Plan ahead for teacher recommendations. Usually (not always) junior teachers are used for the recommendations. If you are not a student who usually makes an impression (a good impression) by participating in class or chatting with the teacher, make an effort to do that. You want to use the teachers who have enjoyed having you in class and who think you are a great student. When you request the recommendations, write a note thanking them in advance for taking the time to support you with a rec. Give the teacher a copy of your resume so they will have a “whole” picture of you. AND, ask for the recs at least 3-4 weeks in advance. Give the teacher plenty of time!
In order to get the best teacher recommendations, you need to approach teachers who know you well (and can speak to your abilities, your work ethic, and your character) and give them enough time to write you a high quality recommendation. Cultivate relationships with your teachers, even if you don’t think you’ll need a recommendation from them. Ask them nicely if they’d be willing to write you a recommendation. Give them plenty of lead time–at least 2 or 3 weeks, if possible. If you ask the night before a deadline, even if you’re a wonderful student, it might be harder for a teacher to put the time into presenting you as well as they might have been able to otherwise. If they agree, ask if they would like (and be ready to provide) a resume or sheet of paper with information that they might want to include or highlight. If they agree to write you a letter, but they don’t know much about you outside of class, you might want to set up a half hour time to speak with them about the colleges that you’re applying to, what you’re interested in studying, and why you would be a good fit at those colleges. Be the student that it’s a pleasure to write letters for, and you’ll get better letters.
The best recommendation letters convey specific details about a students ability, effort, strengths and weakness. Colleges can see the grade you earned in a class by looking at the transcript. They want to know more from your teachers. Specifically, they want to know what sets you a part from other students and whether or not you will be successful on their campus. So, if you got an A in a class, without much effort, that might not be the best teacher to ask. Instead, think about a teacher who watched you struggle and ultimately master some challenging material or the teacher who witnessed you going above and beyond the rest of your classmates.
The best way to get strong letters of recommendation is to do well in your classes, particularly during your junior year. Teachers like students who are engaged, who take pride in their work and who put forth a concerted effort to do well. Even if you don’t start out with the highest grades, teachers are often impressed by students who work to get better throughout the year. You should request your letters toward the end of your junior year or at the very beginning of senior year. Select teachers you actually like, whose classes you did well in and who can say great things about you without a lot of “fluff.” Write a brief letter to the each teacher formally requesting a recommendation and highlighting a few things that you would like included the essay (e.g., the leadership role you took in your group project). Also include your resume/list of activities so that the teacher can see what other cool things you do outside of his/her class.
It is important to ask for a recommendation early enough that the teacher is not put under undue stress and has plenty of time to craft an effective recommendation letter. It is usually advisable to approach a teacher for a recommendation with whom the student has had a good relationship and in whose class the student has worked successfully. A good recommendation can also come, however, from a teacher who has seen a student struggle through a difficult period and has seen him/her overcome those difficulties. This can often result in a powerful recommendation statement. It may be advisable for a student to ask his/her 11th-grade teachers for recommendations, as they will have worked with the student for a full year and will usually know him/her better than the current 12th-grade teachers. Please note, as well, that some institutions will indicate that they specifically want a recommendation letter from an English teacher and/or a Mathematics teacher.
First of all, establishing a solid relationship with teachers must begin freshman year. Be aware of your actions at all times (late to class, missing assignments, no participation) in the classroom and in the school hallways. You know what they say about teachers and their extra sets of eyes and ears! Typically, recommendations should be from a teacher from junior or senior year who teaches a core subject. Some schools are more specific, expecting one letter from a teacher in the sciences or math and one from a teacher for either English of history/social sciences. The general rule of thumb is that you can submit ONE extra letter from an additional adult (non-core teacher, mentor, coach, pastor, boss), but that is all. After three, the admission reviewer will often not read any more, as the idea of who you are has already been established in the first letters. Letters from faculty who know you well are critical. Note that the status of the writer is of no importance; what the letter says is what impacts admission decision. Think outside the box; a letter from a teacher in a subject that is easy for you is expected, but one from a teacher in a subject in which you struggle may better depict your work ethic and your desire to learn for more than a grade.
And finally, letters of recommendation should correspond with and validate other aspects of the admission application, but not simply repeat what can be found elsewhere in your application. The more exact a teacher can be about a particular experience in their classroom or your work on a certain project, the better the letter.
Pick teachers who know you well, that you believe have a good impression of you, and that can relate specific positive experiences in the letter of recommendation. Schedule an appointment to ask the teacher, in private, if they feel comfortable writing a solid letter of recommendation for you. Describe your plans for college. Tell the teacher why you selected them and remind them of highlights like an outstanding paper you prepared in their class. Give the teacher a copy of your resume and transcript, the colleges you are applying to, as well as any recommendation forms they need with due dates.
Make sure you have chosen a teacher who will definitely have positive comments and who is willing to write the letter. It is important that this is a teacher of one of the core subjects–mathematics, English, science, foreign language or humanities– from the last two years of high school. It would be preferable to choose a teacher of a subject that relates to your interests. Try to remind him or her of an instance in the classroom where your potential was on display. Also, make sure that you ask the teacher before he is inundated with similar requests.
The best way to get great teacher recommendations is to select teachers who know you well and will be able to give a candid evaluation of you (it helps if you’ve done well in their class!). Colleges generally want to see one recommendation from either a Math or Science teacher, and one from either an English or History teacher. Your recommending teachers should be those that you have had within the past 2 years as they will have had the most recent interactions with you and be able to accurately attest to your abilities.
Your best recommendation is going to be from a teacher who can best articulate their thoughts. This may not be the class where you got a top grade. It may be the class where you made the most progress from beginning to end. It should be from a teacher in the core areas, preferably one you had junior or senior year. Make sure you make the request with plenty of lead time and you will be rewarded with kind words.
The best recommendations come from those whom you really have a good relationship with. For example, and English teacher who was also your drama teacher. So they got to know you in and out of the classroom. Maybe you even had her for two or three years in the classroom. You also want to keep in mind that if this is a good teacher you probably are not the only one asking her for a recommendation. So plan ahead and give her plenty of time to get a good recommendation together.
Select teachers who know you best
You may have received an “A” in AP US History, but if you rarely interacted with the teacher, this may not be your best bet for a recommendation. Rather than focusing on the teacher who gave you your best grade, identify a teacher who took the time to know you personally. Ask for recommendations in person
Don’t email or text your request. Visit the teacher or counselor during the school day and ask personally for a letter of recommendation. Be prepared to provide the recommender with important information about where to send the letter and the deadline. Plant the seed of your request early
If you had a great year in AP US History, ask your teacher to write a letter of recommendation before you leave for summer vacation. You can solidify your request in the fall, but your teacher may use the summer break to work on these types of requests. Arm your recommender with information
Let the teacher or counselor know everything you were involved in throughout your high school career. Make sure you include activities outside of school, including church activities, jobs, volunteer work – all of these help show who you are and help the recommender get a better sense of what to write. Also, tell your teacher and counselor about the colleges you are applying to. Share your reasons for selecting these schools, and let the recommender know your plans for college and the future. Say “Thank you!”
Send a thank you note to each of your recommenders. A handwritten, personal note of thanks is courteous and demonstrates your good, professional manners.
The best teachers to write your letters of recommendation are teachers who have had you within the past year. Your best match is a teacher who taught a class that you earned a good grade in. If you like the teacher but earned a poor grade then the teacher can only recommend your personal attributes and you are missing out on the opportunity to be recommended for your academic and personal attributes. The best opportunity is when you can contact a teacher from your junior year over the summer before your senior year and ask the teacher to consider writing a letter of recommendation. This will allow the teacher time to think and to write. If your school has not already provided you with a brag sheet please provide on to your teacher. If you have some schools in mind please share your thoughts. Your teacher may believe that you are a great fit at some of the schools you are considering and that will support your application. Always provide a hand written thank you note after the application process is complete.
At Crisp Consulting + Coaching, we provide the following strategy for our students in the college application process. Identify the teachers who can write effective letters highlighting your academic contributions, intellectual curiosity and personal strengths. This is not necessarily your favorite teacher or the teacher from the class where you received an A. This could be a teacher of the course where you faced struggle to understand content and achieve a good grade. Often this teacher will accent your work strong work ethic and academic prowess. Once you have identified the teachers who will highlight your academic and personal strengths, politely ask they are comfortable writing a strong letter that highlights your work in the class. Make the process easier by providing a copy of your activities sheet, your transcript and an envelope addressed to the admission office. During the process, it is acceptable to reconnect with the writer a week prior to the deadline to ensure that the letters have been mailed. Follow up with a handwritten thank-you note.
if they are willing to write you a good recommendation. Choose your recommenders, wisely. Can they demonstrate your strengths and minimize your weaknesses? Send them a resume/brag sheet, whichever your high school college counselors have asked you to complete. Give them adequate time to do this – that means several weeks, if not months before your earliest recommendation is due. Some public colleges do require recommendations. Others do not. It’s up to you to research the admissions offices requirements. Do they want one English/Social Studies and one Math/Science recommendation? Will your teachers submit these electronically or write a letter? Most colleges will ask you to waive your right to view the recommendations so that the teacher/counselor can write freely about you as a student. The best time to ask a recommender is before the end of junior year. The next best time to ask is when senior year begins and the teachers have lots of time to write nice recommendations for you. After they write these recs, don’t forget to write them thank you letters. On thank you cards. Really. By hand. Not an email, not a quick “hey thanks” in person. They took the time to help you get into college, do the right thing and thank them personally. Trust me…their letters will take FAR longer to write than your thank you notes!
Students can affect the quality of their recommendation letters. Be thoughtful about whom you select: Ask teachers who can describe your academic abilities and personal characteristics. Ask early: Who wants to write letters over winter break to meet a January 1 deadline? Explain to teachers why you selected them and what you hope they will share in their letters: Ask for details that each teacher is uniquely able to present. Finally, don’t forget to follow up: Check to see if your teacher has any questions, and then deliver a hand-written thank you note when you know the letter has been sent.
students should prepare a list of introductions for recommendation letters.
it is always better to leave the teacher more time to write about you.
Along with the transcript, standardized test scores, essays and the counselor recommendation, teacher recommendations are an important component of the application. Most colleges request two recommendations, and they prefer that these recommendations come from junior-year teachers. The selection of the teacher is left to the student. So how does a student know which teachers to ask and when to do that asking? Students should be mindful of the need for recommendations before the senior year, and they should ask teachers with whom the student has a good relationship (not to mention good grades earned in that teacher’s class). Some teachers are very popular with students, and teachers have regular lesson planning and grades. That’s why students are advised to ask the teacher at the end of the junior year or even during the summer. Why have a recommendation form sitting in a stack, perhaps with the forms from the peers of the student? Sometimes, I suggest that students ask their counselors for advice on which teachers to select; the counselors may have insight on the relationship or writing style of the teacher.
Often students make the mistake of asking the teacher who gave them the highest grade for a recommendation letter. That teacher may not really know you very well, on a personal level, and be at a loss as to how to describe you and your best qualities. Sometimes, it is in the classes where you might have really struggled, but still achieved success that would make for a stronger recommendation letter. Especially if you have earned the teacher’s respect for what you overcame. Also, if one of your teacher serves as an adviser to an extra-curricular activity that you have become seriously committed to- that teacher knows you now in a different light and could comment on additional skills and /or passions. Whomever you do decide to ask- please ensure that they actually do like you!
When students think about teacher recommendations, they usually first consider asking the teacher in whose class they received the coveted “A.” That sometimes leads to them receiving a letter that says something like this: “John is a good student. He received an A in my class.” Now — that doesn’t give the admissions office any information that the transcript doesn’t already provide, right? Let’s think about why college ask of letters of recommendation. Colleges already know the student’s grades but they look to the teacher for information about the student’s class behavior, character, and personality. The best letters of recommendation, therefore, are the ones that can provide insight into a student’s work habits, strength of character, and intellectual curiosity. That might mean that a student might receive a stronger letter from a teacher in whose course she struggled mightily to get a B- than from a teacher in whose course she received an A without much effort. So — think about which teacher knows you best in terms of who you are as a student and as a member of the school community — not about the teacher who gives out the easy As.
By the time your high school career starts to wrap, you’ve likely had dozens of teachers. Some of them were probably great, and some – not so much. With any luck, however, you had at least one or two who had some sort of profound impact on you, either by turning you on to a new subject matter, helping you navigate through the stressful ins and outs of the high school social stratosphere, or just generally inspiring you to discover your potential. (For you freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, now is the time to start cultivating meaningful encounters with your teachers. You’ll enhance your high school experience and your future college admissions recommendation as well.) These teachers are, undoubtedly, the ones you should solicit for a college recommendation letter. Beyond selecting an educator that you think very highly of, consider choosing someone who might know you beyond the classroom. For instance, perhaps one of your teachers also doubled as your tennis coach or lived on your block throughout your childhood. If a teacher appreciates you on a personal level that extends beyond your academic performance, this will shine through in the letter and work in your favor. Be sure to select at least one teacher who taught you in a college prep subject. While you may have received an A+ in, say, basket weaving, this hardly holds the same degree of relevance as a glowing recommendation from your instructor in Algebra II or Advanced French. Be sure to check with each school you apply to and see if they have any particular requirements or specifications as far as the recommendation letter goes – some likely will. Timing your recommendation letter request well is super important. Choose the creator of your teacher recommendation letter carefully, and give them ample time to sing your praises. A solid, personlaized recommendation letter may just be the extra edge that makes the difference between your application’s landing in the “accepted” pile and landing in the recycle bin.
Here is my video response to the question.
Students need to be themselves and not tailor they behavior just to earn a better recommendation letter. Teachers will see through this subterfuge. Working hard in classes, participating, assisting others, being respectful, asking good questions, demonstrating passion outside of class in the subject area, are all ways to demonstrate to a teacher a student’s engagement in a class and likely to be noticed.
Whether the recommendation is a teacher or administrator, your desired outcome is not just someone verifying your B+ or awesome A grade. Instead, your result should be a perspective that speaks to your intellectual curiosity, persistence towards excellence in whatever subject and how you did or didn’t contribute in the classroom or school community. Never ask a teacher for a recommendation just because your secured a strong grade! Seek out someone who can attest to your ability, potential and personality. If you want the best feedback, I instruct the students I serve to provide a resume or goal statement summary. Only by providing information beyond what they instructor observed in the classroom setting does one empower that reference to speak to the whole of your academic and other efforts or goals. Don’t stick the reference request or email in their inbox/email and fail to give then a reason to “rave” about your candidacy and future aims.
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