Teacher Recs: It’s time to ask

Greetings Juniors!

The close of junior year is just weeks away, but before you walk out that door for the summer, remember this: You’ll need to ask your teachers for your college recommendations.

The time is now.

As we’ve discussed in our recent meetings, many colleges request two academic teacher recommendations.  Typically, junior year teachers are a preferred choice as they are more current, but sophomore year teachers can also be a good option if you forged a particularly strong relationship with them and/or if they know you in multiple capacities (i.e. they taught you sophomore English and also coach the debate team).

Popular teachers are generally asked to write multiple letters and some may limit how many they’ll write, so getting your name on their list now is a good idea. Some teachers even prefer to write their letters over the summer so we recommend you approach your teachers soon.

Okay, now for the most important stuff:

The teacher recommendation is one of the most overlooked weapons in the arsenals of most college applicants. Just because a teacher gives you a good grade doesn’t mean he or she is capable of writing a good recommendation. A good recommendation should be not only articulate, but should also reveal pertinent anecdotal information about you.

Teachers who are familiar with your goals and aspirations, who know you outside of the classroom and who respect you as a person can testify to some of your deeper and less obvious qualities.  As we’ve discussed in our meetings, think carefully about your choices. You might even ask your high school’s college counselor which teachers he/she thinks write the best letters of recommendation; you may uncover some valuable insight.

Once you decide whom to ask, try to make the process as easy as possible for your teachers:

  • Request their help now.  Initially, a simple verbal request is appropriate and if the teacher agrees to write on your behalf, you can follow up with some of the following information later.
  • Provide them with an extracurricular resume and a cover note that mentions a few of the “highlights” of your time in that teacher’s class (i.e. “You selected my short story for the school literary magazine.”) and/or a copy of the best paper, assignment or project you did in their class.  It’s fine to brag a bit here. Teachers know that you’re not telling them what to say, just offering some helpful memory boosters which will make their letter writing easier.
  • Some teachers will submit their recommendations online while others will mail them in.  Ask your teacher what he/she intends to do. If your letters are being mailed, you’ll want to provide your teacher with the proper form (the Common Application teacher recommendation form will be available online on August 1 at www.commonapp.org) and addressed, stamped envelopes if you already know where you’ll apply.  If not, you can follow up with envelopes in the fall once you’ve finalized your college list.
  • Some colleges will have their own teacher recommendation forms while others will simply require a letter. If you don’t yet know where you’re applying or what the specific requirements are, just ask your teacher to write a separate letter which will later be attached to the appropriate form.
  • Be sure to write your teachers a thank you note for their time and effort.

If you have any questions or concerns about teacher recommendations or would like to discuss your choices with us, please don’t hesitate to call or email.

Next up: college essay brainstorming… we’ll start this process in mid May/early June. Until then, study hard, focus on your classes and finish the semester strong!