Start Thinking Now About College Teacher Recommendations

by Neil Chyten

Getting an outstanding college recommendation happens through decisive, prescriptive preparation on how to orchestrate and receive a college recommendation letter that presents the student in the best possible light by showcasing skills, abilities, character, and other distinguishing personal qualities.

As the school year rapidly draws to a close, the last term papers are turned in, projects are completed, final exams are taken, and summer plans are solidified, maybe the last thing that is on a student’s mind is getting teacher recommendations for colleges. After all, the summer is a time to kick back, relax, and unwind from the stress of school.

But wait. Getting an excellent recommendation from a teacher for college should not be something that is last minute or rushed. Like everything else about a student’s purposeful plan for college admission, the teacher recommendation should be high on the ‘to do’ list, especially if the student is about to enter the most critical year in his or her high school journey, the crucial junior year.

And even if the student is not about to become a junior, if he or she is entering freshmen or sophomore year, every student should begin to plan well in advance on how to get an awesome college recommendation. Planning early on in the process should include what attributes the letter written later on should emphasize and more importantly, how to attain these experiences. 

Obtaining the qualities that the letter of recommendation will address does not happen by haphazard accident or fortuitous circumstance. Getting an outstanding college recommendation happens through decisive, prescriptive preparation on how to orchestrate and receive a college recommendation letter that presents the student in the best possible light by showcasing skills, abilities, character, and other distinguishing personal qualities.

Consider the fact that an excellent college recommendation is something that everyone who applies to college needs, yet many consider secondary to other college application requirement considerations like GPA and SATs or ACTs. Certainly, grade point average and standardized test scores are significant for college acceptance, but they should not belay the teacher recommendation because that recommendation can sometimes make the difference between acceptance and rejection. 

Colleges frequently require two or three recommendation letters (and allow 1-2 ”additional personal recommendations) from people who have knowledge of the student through experience, including academic teachers (usually English), guidance counselor, coach, advisor, or employer. They want the letters to be genuine and to be written by someone who truly knows the student well and can accurately describe the student’s skills, classroom presence, talents, attitude, special accomplishments, and demeanor. 

Letters of recommendation are valued by colleges because they reveal things about the student that are not reflected in test or grade scores, provide personal, first-person insight about character, and demonstrate a willingness to support the student’s candidacy and credentials. Colleges are looking for teacher recommendation letters that distinguish the applicant and WOW them. But for a teacher to be able write a WOW letter, the student earn it – and then must REMIND the teacher of those characteristics that might go into the recommendation.  

That’s where the long and short planning comes in. Don’t wait. Plan now for the future letter of recommendation. It is imperative that students provide reasons for teachers to write exceptional recommendations. These recommendations should delineate the experiences and attributes that colleges look for including character, leadership, willingness to take risks, initiative, participation, attitude, helpfulness, commitment to learning, and willingness to help others. 

Consequently, rather than let the summer pass by, now is the time to begin to think about what a teacher’s recommendations for college should say about the student that is both meaningful and memorable. By considering what the letter should say ahead of the time when it is written, the student can be proactive in planning positive activities that will be referenced in the letter. A well-written letter of recommendation that speaks about the student’s attributes that make him or her a viable and excellent candidate for admission to the college of choice is invaluable and should never be discounted.

It is never too early to begin planning for the college recommendation. However, if the process seems difficult, time-consuming or convoluted, it might be a good idea to consult an experienced college counseling expert who possesses the knowledge, qualifications, and expertise to advise a course of action and follow it through to fruition.

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