How to Enhance Teacher Recommendations

Juniors!  If you have not already done so, it’s definitely time to request teacher recommendation(s) that will accompany your college applications.   Students are sometimes tempted to leave this part of the process until the fall of their senior year, but that leaves very little time for teachers to complete the recommendations, particularly when confronted with application deadlines as early as October 15th.

Tips to keep in mind:

·         The best recommendation is not necessarily from the teacher who gave you the best grades. Often, a stronger recommendation comes from the teacher in whose class you’ve struggled.  This teacher can address your academic drive and perseverance, qualities that admissions readers love to see.

·         Ideally, recommendations will come from teachers of your “core” academic subjects. Yet, if you feel that another teacher has gotten to know you well and can write about qualities that other teachers will not, by all means. Furthermore, you may want to check with the colleges that you are interested in to see if they require recommendations from specific teachers for some specific majors.

·         Whenever possible, provide your recommenders with “memorable moments.”  These are papers, projects, presentations, labs that you are particularly proud of and you would like the teacher to highlight in his/her letter.  The more details and anecdotes a teacher can include, the richer the recommendation becomes.

“Making Learning Better for Others”

“The teachers are usually the only ones who can offer a perspective of the student’s behavior in class,” notes Peter Osgood, admissions director at Harvey Mudd College.  “I want to know  – how creative, how determined, how playful, how focused, how they make learning better for others, are they quiet, but offer pearls of wisdom?”

The ideal teacher recommendation will fully describe the student’s performance, participation and attitude towards learning and towards his peers.  Colleges want to see that the student knows how to be an engaged learner.