Get Me To College
Getting others to share your story:
Ten tips for getting strong teacher and counselor letters of recommendation
|Rebecca Joseph, PhD/Susan Meyers|
Tip 1. Get a copy of the college handbook or look at the website. This may provide guidance for teacher and counselor recommendations. Find out if your school uses Naviance and if your school has gone paperless. If not, use the paper, envelope, and stamp route.
Tip 2. Some colleges want one teacher recommendation, while others want two. Find out either on the Common Application or the college’s website. Many public colleges require recommendations and use their own sites. Other may accept them via the mail – do it!!! Don’t overwhelm colleges with too many extra letters. Save those for scholarships and for deferrals or waitlist responses.
Tip 3. Select teachers who know you really well: ideally from 11th or 12th grade or someone you have had more than once. Use only core teachers: English, Social Studies, Science, Math, and Foreign Language. Do not pick two from the same content area. If you’re in 11th grade, and you know a teacher is leaving the school, get his or her contact information now!!! For schools with one recommendation, select the teacher that knows you AND writes the best!!! Ask around. People know!!!
Tip 4. Ask your selected teachers as soon as you can during the fall of senior year. Ask if they have specific timing requirements. Usually give teachers at least four weeks to write a letter. Do not hand letters to them the day before Christmas break and expect them to get letters in on time. Christmas break is Christmas break.
Tip 5. Find out which colleges on your list accept online recommendations, because teachers only have to write one letter and then upload it. FILL OUT THE FERPA FORMS online and on paper forms. These are the sections that say that you waive your right to see the letters. WAIVE the rights!!!
Tip 6. Find out whether your teachers will do online recommendations. If they do, thank them and get the email address they use all the time. Then go online and invite them. You must do this for each college, even on the common application. Show wary teachers how to do an online recommendation on The Common Application site. http://s3.parature.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=5525 . Paper forms can be found at each application site.
Tip 7. Ask your teachers if they have a brag sheet or information form. If not, put together a packet which includes: a) a cover sheet with deadlines for each college; b) a thank you letter that mentions any qualities, details, class remembrances or pertinent facts. Be specific!!!. Mention your leadership and initiative and share places where you’ve gone further—community college, summer programs, tutoring, and more. You may want to attach copies of papers or projects. You can include your resume, but remind teachers not to include these in their recommendations.
Tip 8. Provide the teacher with the necessary forms and instructions attached to your letter. Be sure to fill out all information students must complete. If the college provides no form, ask the teacher to please create his or her own recommendation — ideally on school letterhead.
Tip 9. For paper recommendations, provide stamped envelopes addressed to the colleges. Use your school’s address as the return address. Provide self-sealing envelopes.
Tip 10. Keep track. On the common application, you can see when a teacher submits a recommendation. Each college also has tracking forms online. A week before the deadline, remind your teacher. Check two weeks after the deadline to check whether letters were received. If not, again, yet nicely, go back to your teacher. They occasionally have to resend letters. You are usually not penalized for letters that get in late. Just get your application materials in on time!!!
Extra Idea If You’re Stressing: For paper applications, provide a self-addressed, stamped postcard that you insert into the college envelope that you have provided for the teacher. The postcard says, “Dear (Your Name), (Name of College) has received your recommendation from (Name of Teacher).” The college will know to send you the postcard as soon as the recommendation arrives.
Extra Idea If You Want: Consider giving teacher a little treat for helping you out. A gift card to Starbucks or Coffee Bean or a handmade thank you is nice.Tweet