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4 Tips to Get Stellar Teacher Recommendation Letters

Learn about how you can get strong teacher recommendation letters for college.

Beyond college admissions essays, standardized test scores, and GPAs, there is one critical component of your college application: teacher recommendation letters.

While you can’t write the letters, or even see what has been written on your behalf, you can take proactive steps to make them as complementary to the rest of your application as possible. The key is to help your recommenders cast you in the best possible light. Here are four tips to help them help you:

Choose the right teachers

The cornerstone of a robust recommendation letter rests upon the relationship between the student and the teacher. You’ll want a recommendation from a teacher you’ve had recently (e.g., in your junior year—or better yet, for multiple years including the present or past year). Concentrate on approaching educators who have made a significant impact on your academic growth and personal development. Teachers who know you well and understand your strengths can provide specific examples—and these are what can transform a good recommendation into a great one.

Start early

Timing is crucial when requesting recommendation letters—the earlier you ask, the better chance you’ll have of getting a strong letter in time. (This is especially important if you are applying early.) Approach your prospective recommenders well in advance, ideally at the very beginning of your senior year. You can always follow up with a friendly reminder as deadlines approach if your teachers haven’t submitted their letters.

Provide recommenders with essential information

To help teachers craft compelling recommendation letters, provide them with essential information. This falls into two categories—logistics and characteristics. For logistics, make sure you provide them with an overview of all the recommendation letters you’re requesting, due dates, submission information, and any additional notes—organizing all of this information in a spreadsheet can be a helpful way to stay on top of important deadlines. For characteristics, help them remember why you’re a star. Share a copy of your resume and/or a list of your accomplishments, along with your college essay. If you can provide copies of graded work from that teacher’s class, all the better. This additional information will assist teachers in tailoring their letters to set you up for success.

Express gratitude

After recommendation letters have been submitted, take the time to write personal thank-you notes to every teacher who took the time to write on your behalf. Their advocacy may have life-improving consequences for you, and a note of gratitude is an important way to demonstrate that you value their time, appreciate their support, and have the soft skills likely to help you succeed in college and beyond.

As you embark on your college application journey, exemplary recommendation letters can help you stand out. By thoughtfully selecting appropriate teachers, planning ahead, supplying pertinent information, and conveying gratitude, you can help your teachers help you gain college admission. Best of luck!