While all of the components of your college application are important, one particularly crucial element that requires notice, effort, and thought are your teacher recommendations. Teacher recommendations are an integral part of your application because it’s an outside perspective. Your teachers and counselors are offering a discussion of your character based on their observations and experiences, and that should not be overlooked. It’s important to give this aspect some significant thought, and just FYI: don’t just assume you should ask your English teacher because you’ve gotten straight 100s on all of your quizzes and papers. Think again, and read on.
There are 5 steps to securing and completing your teacher recommendations for your applications:
Identify your teacher
This is the most important step. It’s crucial to think about how you perform in a class as well as your experience and personality in the class. While you might be a solid B+/A- student on average, that doesn’t mean you can ask any of your teachers. In fact, we recommend asking a teacher who has a story to tell about you, academically. We might recommend that you ask your Physics teacher if you struggled to achieve a B your first semester and now are earning a solid A in the class your second semester because you took the time to meet with your teacher outside of class, review your tests, and put in a significant amount of time and effort to improve your grade. That story of commitment and self-discipline will speak more to your character than a vanilla rave review from your history teacher, a class in which you’ve historically succeeded without much of a concerted effort and a teacher with whom you do not have as close of a personal connection.
Be ahead of the curve
Start thinking about this yesterday. It’s important to begin nailing down details that you can determine as early as possible. There are certain components of your application that you cannot control the timing of, for example, your ACT/SAT. But this, you can control and check off of your list early and before everyone else starts thinking about it. Teachers will be bombarded with recommendation requests come summer and fall, so seize the season of spring and get going on asking your teachers now.
Meet with them and ask them to PLEASE write your recommendation letter
When you ask your teacher for a recommendation letter, schedule a meeting to talk to them. This is not a small favor to ask and it shows that you are taking their time into consideration by not asking them in passing. Ask them for a good time for you to come by the classroom and then come back (they might say they have time to chat right then, which is fine). Let them know why you think they’d be a great recommender and ask them if they think they would consider writing you a recommendation for college. More often than not, they’ll be enthusiastic and be happy to help.
Set deadlines and follow up
Let your teachers know when you need the recommendations by, and provide them with information about how to access the applications. Deadlines will vary, but if you are asking for your recommendations ahead of time it’s best to set a deadline and let your teachers know that once all of your applications are online they will be receiving an email. Alternatively, you could ask them to print out the recommendations and provide them with envelopes for them to use and seal so that you can send them to your colleges.
Write a handwritten thank you note
Perhaps the most powerful part of this process is the last step: communicating gratefulness. Saying thank you to your teachers who provided you with a recommendation is crucial, and we recommend that all of our students write their teachers a handwritten note expressing their gratitude. Taking the time to write a note and give it to your teacher shows thought and effort, and will not be overlooked.
This step can be intimidating and the process of finding the right teacher can be challenging. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out to us and we can help you get a game plan together.