How to Get the Best Teacher Recommendations for College

Teacher recommendations are an important, but sometimes overlooked part of the college admissions process. They are one of the few opportunities that an admissions committee gets to read about a student’s character, motivation and personality. Teacher recommendations are not always mandatory, but they often provide the admissions committee with positive statements about a student as a college applicant.

Teacher recommendations are important for college admissions because they give a picture of a student in an academic setting. Students should make sure to ask a teacher who teaches in the core classes: English, science, math, social studies, or foreign language. Many schools like to have two teacher recommendations, each from a different subject area.

Teacher recommendations are intended for colleges to get a better picture of how a student might fit into their freshmen class. Colleges read all of your recommendations and factor them into the college admissions decision. Although it may not feel like students have much control over this aspect, they probably have more control than they realize.

Students should not wait until their senior year to request teacher recommendations. Teachers get busy in the fall and the more recommendations they have to do, the less time they will have to spend on them. Meet with two teachers before the end of your junior year and talk about what you would like them to write on your recommendations. Make sure the teachers know about you both inside and outside of the classroom and what you feel you can bring to a college campus.

Colleges prefer teacher recommendations come from teachers you have had for at least one semester because they want an honest evaluation of how you compare to other students in your class. If you have a teacher who also knows you outside the classroom in athletics or extra-curricular activities, that can give a college an additional perspective on you as a potential college applicant. Unless a school specifically requests it, don’t use a coach or someone who cannot speak to your academic achievements and capabilities.

Make sure your teacher recommendations focus on the academic issues related to your college choices, so that the teacher can provide specific information to support your applications. Or, if the colleges are known for their debate team, the teacher could mention that you have excelled in a particular area in your high school speech and debate club.

According to recent research, teacher recommendations are the fifth most important factor in the college admission decision. Of the top five factors – grades in college prep courses, SAT and ACT scores, class rank, essay or personal statement – this one give an admissions committee something more personal than grades and test scores are able to provide.

Teacher recommendations often give a school some idea of how students will fit into their particular campus and how successful they will be completing four years of study. As colleges continue to receive increasing numbers of applicants each year, the need to stand out from the competition is also increasing. Teacher recommendations might be that piece of information that distinguishes you from other applicants in college admissions.

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