Tips from an Irvine Admissions Consultant: 5 Things to Know About Teacher Recommendations
Most colleges and universities will allow students to provide two letters of recommendation on their behalf. A few larger universities will not look at recommendations at all and others will make it optional. It’s important for applicants to know that “optional” is another way of saying “you should probably do this if you want to win a spot at this college”. So if you do need recommendations from teachers, there are few things you should know before you ask.
1. Ask a teacher who has known you for at least a full year
You may have met your very favorite teacher just this semester. Although that will make for a great senior year experience, a teacher who has known you for less than a year may not have as much to say as someone who has known you throughout high school. It’s always a good idea to ask teachers who can discuss that you have been a consistently prompt, intelligent, and involved student. Although teachers who have known you for two or three months might say lovely things, the recommendation may not carry the same weight (READ: “5 Things to do Before You Go Away for College”).
2. Ask teachers who have given you consistent positive feedback
It’s also important to ask teachers who have provided positive feedback over long periods of time. You may have gotten an A+ with excellent remarks on your latest assignment in Chemistry but received a C or D for the previous assignment. You don’t want a teacher to say that you can excel some of the time to the college of your dreams.
3. One low grade doesn’t mean they won’t write a good recommendation
Although consistently good feedback is essential, one poor grade shouldn’t prevent a student from asking for a recommendation. If you have been in a teacher’s class for AP Language and 11th grade English, where you have received a 4.0 and excellent feedback, you shouldn’t worry too much about that one C you got back in the 9th grade. Most educators know that students improve with time and that how they perform during junior and senior year is a better indicator than something that happened while they were transitioning to high school in the past.
4. Keep in mind that you won’t see the letter of recommendation
It’s important to remember that you won’t see the letter of recommendation written about you. Very few teachers will agree to write a recommendation if they know that students and parents are going to see their words. Colleges and universities require that recommendations be sent separately from the teacher to ensure that they are sincere and unbiased. If you have any doubts as to the specifics of the recommendation, it might be better to ask someone else (READ: “Extra Curricular Activities For Your College Resume”).
5. Give them ample time to write the recommendation
One of the biggest issues teachers face is the amount of time students give them to write recommendations. It’s important to remember that teachers may have dozens of students asking for references and that they will only be able to write so many in a short period of time. In fact, students who ask just a couple days before a due date may be denied the opportunity to receive a reference from an excellent educator. Additionally, even if the teacher is willing to write a last minute recommendation it certainly won’t be as well written as if they had two or three weeks to thoughtfully sit down and review all of your contributions to the class or school (READ: “College Application Crunch Time”).
Asking teachers for recommendations can be nerve racking. Many students will be wondering what to do if the teacher declines or if the recommendation isn’t as good as it needs to be. It’s a good idea to select who you will ask well in advance and make sure that you provide at least two weeks for each teacher to write and submit their letters. Many students get into college because of an excellent recommendation thus it’s a very important part of the college application process.
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