Who Should I Ask for a College Recommendation Letter? 

College applications aren’t just work for you. Often times, they mean work for your parents, college counselors, and teachers, too. So, hopefully you’ve been nice and respectful to a few (if not all) teachers throughout your time in school, because they are a critical part of the admissions process. The purpose of the teacher recommendation is to establish credibility for the applicant. Every other piece of the application is pretty much authored or engineered by you. The teacher recommendation allows universities to see if applicants are who they say they are. They’re also an opportunity for someone who knows you well to sing your praises and tell them something they might not know yet.  

Choosing Strategically

With all that in mind, the obvious goal would seem to be to choose teachers who are going to flatter you. That’s partially true, but the objective is also to recruit people who are going to help you establish the brand you’re trying to put forth to the admissions committee. (More on that in a second). First, you should identify two teachers who know you well. You don’t just want someone to say “this person is really nice.” You want them to be able to credibly demonstrate that they know you well, and they would still elect to support you. Both should be academic teachers. (In other words, not a coach or an extra-curricular advisor).  

Identifying Your Brand  

Remember that the application process is all about showing the admissions committee you’re a good fit by way of your personality, interests, and achievements. You should be really specific throughout. Never apply as an undecided major. By now, your academics and extra-curriculars should demonstrate that you’re a master in some niche area. So, if you have branded yourself as an electrical engineer, you should ideally have your math and science teachers write your recommendations. Also, these teachers should be from your junior year. If you can’t get junior year teachers, get teachers from subjects you’re trying to highlight from another year of school.

Don’t Go Overboard

Three is not always better than two. If you need a third, they should be a non-academic teacher (a coach, an advisor, etc.). As we’ve said time-and-again about all aspects of the application, from SAT IIs to extra-curriculars, quality over quantity, every time.


Need some guidance on establishing your niche? Call us. We are experts in helping students develop impressive personal brands and trajectories.