Getting teacher recommendations is an important step in the college application process. Different schools will require recommendations from teachers in certain subject areas, so the student needs to be organized to make sure he completes his recommendation requirements properly and in a timely manner.
Before a student can ask teachers for recommendations, he needs to decide which ones will write the most positive, detailed letters for him. It is also a good idea to consider getting recommendations from teachers of honors, Advanced Placement or other difficult classes in order to show how well the student can handle a heavy workload, much like he will need to do in college.
Teachers who have taught a student for more than one year are also good candidates, since they will be more familiar with his character and abilities. If none of the above suggestions apply, students should ask teachers they had during their junior year, since the students’ performances will be most fresh in their minds.
Students should not wait until their senior year to ask teachers for recommendations. Often times, teachers must put a limit on the number of recommendations they write in order to manage their busy lives. In May or June of their junior years, students should make contact with the teachers. In some cases, teachers will require something in return for the recommendation, such as filling out a form with personal information that will help them craft a better letter.
Some students may feel awkward asking teachers for a recommendation. They should approach teachers before or after a class period so they do not disrupt a lesson. Being polite and respectful of the teacher’s prior obligations is also necessary. Note that the teacher does not have to write students’ recommendations. It is a favor that they do if they wish to for stellar students. Giving the teachers a way out is a good and polite idea. To do this, start the question with a phrase like, “If you have time…” or “If you’re not too busy…”
It is the student’s responsibility to follow up on the recommendations in the fall. In September, they should politely remind the teachers of the agreement made in the spring. When it is time for applications to be sent out, hand each teacher one addressed, stamped envelope for every school the letter is being sent to, along with any form the school requires with the letter. Then, to be safe, the student should call each college or check their websites to confirm the letter’s safe arrival at the school.
After the college application process is over and the holiday season rolls around, it is nice to thank the teachers for their time and effort. Purchasing a gift is not necessary, but it is a nice touch. At the very least, students should give them cards to thank them. Students can now relax as they wait for their decision letters and then share their college destinations with their teachers.