Letters of recommendation, especially those from your junior year teachers, are a key component of your college applications. Colleges recognize that your teachers spend significant time with you and, therefore, trust them to provide a candid picture of who you are as a scholar and a person. The expert counselors at IvyWise have compiled the following tips to help you develop teacher relationships and leave a positive, lasting impression that will help you get those glowing letters of recommendation:
Show Courtesy and Respect – and Add Some Enthusiasm!
Arrive to class on time, treat your peers respectfully, and be alert and engaged during class. As you are listening to the teacher, take copious notes. If a teacher is taking the time to say something, it must be important. Taking notes will also keep you focused on the discussion at hand, and will spark questions and comments so you can contribute to the classroom discussion. Teachers enjoy teaching students who show genuine interest in their subject!
Approach Your Teachers Outside of the Classroom
While teachers may seem intimidating during class, many are friendly and open to interacting with their students! If you have a question after a class discussion or assignment, ask your teacher about it after class or during office hours. Use this time to get extra help, ask questions, inquire about extracurricular activities or research related to the subject, or talk about your progress in class. This is a great opportunity for you to get to know your teachers and for them to get to know you.
Always remember to arrive to class prepared, with all of the required assignments, as well as extra work, complete. Do extra reading and research above and beyond primary texts and share this information in class; teachers appreciate students who offer fresh perspectives, raise the level of learning for their peers, and want to help others succeed. If you did poorly on an assignment, take it back to your teacher and offer to redo it, instead of filing it away in the back of your notebook or in the trash. Offer to do this not for a better grade, but for the sake of learning and understanding more fully the material and the teacher’s objectives. Show the teacher that you are eager to improve yourself academically.
Update Your Teachers on Your Plans and Goals
Set up extra meetings with your teachers and inform them about what you are doing both in and out of school. That way, they have more insight into your interests, strengths, weaknesses, achievements, and aspirations. Plus, your teachers could be knowledgeable about scholarships and academic programs; understanding your interests and goals will allow them to share their expertise with you and recommend you for relevant activities and honors. Your teachers may even be able to help you network within a professional community and find an internship or job!
Choose Teachers for Letters of Recommendation Carefully
It is important to give careful consideration to which teachers you will ask to write your letters of recommendation. Ask a teacher who knows you well, perhaps someone who has taught you over several years or who knows you in multiple capacities. Don’t choose a teacher only because you received an A in their class; it is more important that your recommendations come from the teachers who know you best; hopefully, you also did well in those teachers’ classes.
Ask for Letters of Recommendation Early!
When it comes time to ask for a letter of recommendation, meet with and ask your teacher at least one month in advance of when the letter is due. We encourage IvyWise students to ask their teachers before the end of junior year and then follow up at the beginning of senior year. During the first meeting, give your teachers a copy of your resume and examples of your completed assignments. The more information they have about you and the colleges to which you are applying, the greater the likelihood that they can personalize your letter to show why you are a great match. With all of this information in hand, you will be able to ask if they would be willing to write you a letter. Keep in mind that teachers are by no means required to write letters of recommendation and often get asked by several students. If a teacher appears reluctant to write you a letter, do not insist on it.
It is important to start fostering strong relationships early on in your high school career; the better teachers know you and the harder you work in their classes, the more they can say on your behalf and the more likely that they will agree to write letters for you. Take time to cultivate your relationships with your teachers and make any requests easy by getting them everything they need in a timely and orderly fashion. Most importantly, thank them wholeheartedly for their time and effort!