How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Build relationships with your teachers early.

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

Brooke Seifert
Academic Counselor Fountain Hills High School

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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! :-)

Jeana Robbins

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Trevor Creeden
Director of College and Career Counseling Delaware County Christian School

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Angelina Modica
SUNY Fredonia

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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!

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University

Choices, choices

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.

Joseph Tavares

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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!

Eric Beers, Ph.D.
College and Career Counselor Air Academy High School

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

meredith bracco
Director Educational Opportunities Consulting, LLC

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

The Person Behind the Grades

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.