Recommendation Letters: Who Should Write Them?
Regardless if you were a teacher’s pet or coach’s favorite, if you are applying to college you are going to have to chose a faculty member from your high school to write you a recommendation letter.
While it is unlikely that a teacher will deny writing you your letter, you should chose careful who you select. Just like college admissions essays, recommendations letters can become generic and redundant to an admission officer. You want your letter to stand out; after all, it’s going to be what represents you to your perspective school.
Here is a suggestive criterion for how to chose who writes your recommendation letters:
A teacher you have had for more than one year: Yes, it is possible that you could make a deep connection with a teacher after only one year, but you want your teacher to comment on your progress in maturity and academics. You want the writer of your letter to be able to testify to your potential and ability to grow, as they have seen in the past.
Someone who has seen your character outside of the classroom: Applications usually require that at least one recommendation letter comes from a teacher. However, if you have had the chance to interact with a teacher during an extracurricular as well, they will be able to comment on you as a person and not just a student. While grades are important, colleges also look for applicants who are involved in the community, motivated, and team players.
Don’t choose someone just because your friends did: I noticed when I was applying to college that one teacher in particular was targeted by many students to write their recommendation letters. If one teacher has 30 letters to write it’s a good possibility that after number 10 or so they may lose personality. You want the person writing your letter to feel honored, not overwhelmed.
Don’t chose someone just because they gave you an A: It’s easy to assume that just because you got an A in the class the teacher will write about how smart and amazing you are. While getting an A is a great accomplishment, so is progress. If you formed a bond with a teacher, didn’t get an A in his or her class but did try your best, don’t rule them out. If a teacher can comment on your hard work and perseverance, that may say something more about you than an A would.
Talk about your letter with the teacher: When you approach a teacher about writing your recommendation letter it’s completely appropriate to tell them why you chose them. Saying things like, “I chose you because I really enjoyed your class and expressed myself in my assignments. I think you may have a lot to say about me as an expressive, hardworking person,” really shows your teacher that you are taking this serious and thought appropriately about selecting them.