The Importance of a Strong Teacher Recommendation
As our February 1st Regular Decision application deadline approaches, we receive several questions from students about teacher recommendations. It’s wise to ask your teachers very soon about writing those for you (if you haven’t done so already) to give them plenty of time to write good letters that will reach us in time. So, as you go about getting those from your teachers, here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind.
- The point is to make it personal. We require a teacher recommendation because it provides us with detail and context about the kind of student you’ve been that we can’t get any other way. We understand that, as a student, you are more than just a compilation of academic statistics. The teacher recommendation provides us with stories, descriptions, and lasting impressions from your teachers about who you’ve been in the classroom during high school.
- We require at least one teacher recommendation. Your application will be considered “incomplete” if we do not receive this letter by February 1st.
- You are welcome to submit more than one letter, but please limit yourself to no more than two total. This is the maximum number that the Common App allows you to submit via their online application, and we find it to be a good number too. Keep in mind, many of your teachers have several students asking them for recommendations and it’s important to be respectful of their time. We also find that while a second letter can sometimes offer a fresh perspective about you, additional letters beyond that are often redundant and aren’t necessary.
- Your recommendation should come from a teacher in a core academic subject area, which would include English, math, science, social studies, or foreign language. These teachers have seen you at work in a traditional classroom setting taking courses in subjects that you are likely to also take in college. If you’ve been active, for example, in music, sports, or volunteer work and really want to send us a second recommendation from a teacher or adult who’s worked with you in one of those areas, that’s totally fine. But we prefer to have one recommendation from a teacher that’s worked with you in an academic setting where you’ve done college-preparatory work.
- It’s best if we get the Teacher Evaluation form and a recommendation letter. We use the Common Application’s Teacher Evaluation form and want your teacher to fill it out. Most teachers will also write you a letter of recommendation to include with the form. If we receive just the completed form or a letter by itself, we’ll consider that recommendation requirement fulfilled, but we want to have both. Your application will be stronger if we do.
- Give your teachers notice and remind them well before the deadline hits. You will save yourself, your parents, and your teachers a lot of headaches if you ask your teachers for recommendations far before the deadline. Follow up with them to make sure they get it submitted on time.
- Pick teachers who know you well to complete your recommendations. Sometimes we read recommendations from teachers who admit that they don’t know the student they’re recommending very well. Students might, for instance, be tempted to ask teachers that they’ve only had for a couple months in the start of their senior year write their recommendation. We will certainly accept these recommendations, but obviously the strongest recommendations will almost always come from teachers who really know the student well and can speak in detail about them on an academic and personal level.
To reiterate, the point of the recommendation is to personalize the academic components of your application. And the better a teacher knows you, the more personal and passionate a letter they are likely to write on your behalf!