During sophomore and junior year of high school, I discuss the importance of teacher recommendations in the college application. Learning what teachers should write in their teacher recommendation letter is quite eye-opening for students. More importantly, learning this information long before it’s required means that students will have an opportunity to work on developing those important student-teacher relationships.
For example, in a recent Common Application, teachers are asked to respond to these student qualities:
- Creative, original thought
- Productive class discussion
- Disciplined work habits
- Reaction to setbacks
- Concern for others
These are in addition to academic and other personal characteristics.
If you are reading this shortlist and can’t think of ONE sophomore or junior year teacher who would rank you highly with these qualities, then it’s time for you to start nurturing 2-3 teacher relationships. This is meant in a sincere way. If you’re genuinely interested in the topic being taught, that’s one way of determining whether to further build a relationship with the teacher.
Many of my students will apply to selective summer programs. When they apply to a summer program during sophomore or junior year, this gives them a great opportunity to request a recommendation. The teacher who writes a summer program recommendation will learn earlier about your interests and how to write about your unique attributes.
Whether you’re requesting a teacher recommendation for a summer program or college application, here are 5 key things to do to get the best recommendation:
- Request the recommendation 3-4 weeks prior to the deadline, when possible. This will allow the teacher ample time to write a strong letter on your behalf.
- Provide the teacher description of the program of interest. Discuss why you’re interested in this program. When applying to colleges, let the teacher know the colleges of interest to you and why.
- Activities Resume – share your updated Activities Resume with the teacher so that he/she will learn more about your interests.
- If there’s a form provided or other instructions about what should be included in the teacher recommendation, give that to the teacher, as well. Make sure that if there’s a waiver for you to sign that you do so prior to giving the teacher the form.
- Most important . . . Give the teacher an addressed envelope to seal and sign. If the recommendation should be mailed, please fill out the address and place a stamp on the envelope. If the letter should be returned to you, please write on the front of the envelope.”Teacher Recommendation for (Your Name)”. Please make sure that the teacher signs across the seal of the envelope (see photo). This ensures that the recommendation is confidential!
Teacher recommendations are an important part of your application portfolio, whether it’s for a summer program or college admissions. You may also follow these steps if a counselor recommendation is needed.
What’s worked for you in getting the best recommendation?