Steps to Getting the Best Teacher Recommendation

By on July 23, 2011

This is a post by Radhika Bora, a member of the Acceptional High School Journalism Program. In this post, she outlines some steps to ensure you get the best possible teacher recommendation.

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Getting teacher recommendations may seem like a daunting task, as they are a significant part of college applications. However, there are a few steps you can take to make getting your teacher recommendations easy, simple, and stress-free.

Chances are that hardworking students have several teachers who appreciate their effort and thus hold the student in some esteem. However, not all of these teachers would write the best recommendations for these students because of a number of factors including the teacher’s writing capability, the student’s in-class behavior, how well the teacher knows the student as an individual, and so on. When choosing a teacher to write a college application recommendation it’s best to pick one who is familiar with the student, can write relatively well (so an English teacher would probably be better-suited to write a recommendation than a football coach), and teaches a class the student enjoys.

After you’ve chosen your teacher, the next step is to sit down with them for a short meeting and discuss ways to make the recommendation the best it can be. Some students may be tempted to micromanage each detail of the recommendation — an idea which is dubious at best since the end result would be a piece of obvious self-praise. Additionally, teachers probably won’t want to be told what to write in their recommendation letters. They might see it as disrespectful or overly fastidious.

One important point to understand during this meeting is that your teacher will write about your participation in class discussions (or lack thereof) in addition to your hard work. Talk about any class discussions that truly engaged and interested you. For example, if your English class had a debate about your favorite poet and you enjoyed exchanging insights into his or her prevalent themes with your classmates, you could mention how much you appreciated the discussion to your teacher.

You could also discuss your after-class behavior with your teacher. If you are the kind of student who stays after class to discuss something interesting you’ve learned, then your teacher will most likely note your passion for learning in your recommendation. If you do not, your teacher might point out your focus and attention in class, or your diligence and good work ethic. Both are important attributes that will help you throughout your college years, but they are more generic, since many other recommendations highlight the same traits.

If you have any odd quirks that you consider to be defining traits then your teacher might communicate them through his or her recommendation. For instance, if you love reading and go through a novel a day (and your teacher knows this because you always have a book on your desk) then your teacher may note your bibliophilia. If you’re an art history or science museum buff, then your teacher might also mention these idiosyncracies as a part of your broader personality. They would definitely help you stand out and indicate your interest in non-academic areas of learning.

The most important thing to keep in mind as you discuss the recommendation with your teacher is that you wish for your teacher to communicate your passion through the recommendation without your input. If you love history and discussing cause-and-effect relationships in your Government class, then your Government teacher has probably realized that already. Now it’s just a matter of ensuring that your passion for history (or medieval French literature, or microbiology) is revealed clearly and distinctly through your teacher recommendations.

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3 Comments

  1. Andre Tarquinio

    July 24, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I agree that the most important part of the recommendation process is how well the teacher knows you and your passion for the subject. I don’t think anyone should, however, let it discourage them if that person happens to be a coach or a teacher of any particular subject. While writing style is important what is most important is your relationship with them.

  2. Ashley Chi

    July 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    This article is very interesting and informative, and sure to be helpful in a year or so when I’ll have to start gathering teacher recommendations.

  3. Josie Yang

    August 27, 2011 at 12:14 am

    I also think it’s important to consider when the teacher had you as a student, if at all. For example, a teacher who taught you junior year would know you better than a teacher who taught you freshman year, just because you might have changed in that time. At my school the counselors advise students to get teacher recommendations from our junior year teachers, or teachers that have taught us several times.

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