An important part of your college application will be the letters of recommendation from your teachers. Each school is different – some will ask teachers to write an actual letter. Others, like those that use the Common Application, will ask the teacher to fill out a form with specific short answer questions. These won’t necessarily make or break your entrance into a certain school, but it is within your power to make sure you get the best recommendations possible. It doesn’t have to be stressful – teachers are used to writing these and will often be glad you asked.
A lot of students feel lost in this section of their application because they don’t know which teacher to ask to write their letter. It really, truly helps to make a list. A long list. A list of every teacher you have had during your high school career. Once you have created this list, go over it a few times and think about the teachers you enjoyed most. Were there any with whom you had a great connection? Are there any that stand out just by looking at this list? If there are, start with those teachers.
While having teachers that taught you in your junior and senior years is a plus, there is no reason to rule out a teacher you had as a freshman if you really clicked. If you had a teacher for more than one class or multiple years, this is a great opportunity for them to write about how you’ve grown as a student.
It’s important to remember that your teacher is not writing a letter about how smart you are or how perfect your grades were – or weren’t! They are giving the school more information about you in an academic context. Whether you are worried that your bad grades and low test scores will hurt your chances of college acceptance, or that you lack extra-cirricular activities and zest on your transcript: talk to a teacher who knows you more as a person and will vouch for your character.
It is totally valid to discuss the letter of recommendation with your chosen teacher and ask them to be honest. This is your future! You can ask, “Do you feel comfortable recommending me to this school?” If they do, great. Remind them of your application deadline! If they don’t, they will tell you. Don’t get discouraged! Ask a teacher who believes in you. You deserve it.
Here are a few more pointers from Cappex that you might want to consider when thinking about teacher recommendations!