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?

Donovan Blake
Lead Consultant Griffin Blake Educational Consulting

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Allen Regar

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Mark Giesmann
Counselor Cherry Creek High School

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Lynda McGee
College Counselor Downtown Magnets High School

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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!

Janet Elfers

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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

Alan Duesterhaus
CollegeFit

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Michelle Brown
Licensed Counselor/Social Empowerment Educator OaklandUniv./BreatheAgainCounseling

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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.

Scott Herrmann-Keeling
College Counselor

How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

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).