Limit your requests for teacher recommendations to one or two teachers. Colleges rarely ask for more than two teachers at most. It is important that you personally ask a teacher to complete the teacher recommendation form. The teacher you choose should know you well enough to give several specific examples describing your characteristics as a person and student, your written work, the degree and quality of class participation, and your interest in the subject. This is not necessarily the teacher who gave you an "A." Recommendations should come from junior or senior level teachers. Here are some ways you can make this task easier for your teachers:
- If recommendations are required, forms are usually inside the application. Tear out the teacher recommendation(s) and fill out the top of the form completely. If you are using an online application, be sure to download the recommendation form and print a copy to give to your teacher. If you are using the Common Application electronic version, just tell your teachers that – they will upload their recommendations electronically. ALWAYS waive your right to see the recommendation; otherwise the letter will have no weight in the application process. Just so you know: the federal law governing this aspect of your application states that you only have the right to see the letter once you have been admitted and you actually attend that school. Then you have the right to go to the admission office once you are on campus and read the letter. If you are rejected from a school, you have no right to see the letter at any time. Think about it - you sign away your right, and you are admitted - would you really care what the letter says - not likely. So sign the waiver.
- For each college that you are applying to and that doesn't use the Common Application, address and stamp a plain business-sized envelope, leaving the return address blank or Maranatha's (169 South Saint John Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105).
- Neatly organize a folder with your résumé, all the request forms for the various colleges, and their addressed, stamped envelopes. Attach the Teacher Recommendation Request Form, a list of the colleges with deadlines clearly noted for each college, and Snapshot Form Teacher Recommendation Form (PDF). Keep a copy of the college list for your records.
- Give the folder to the teacher a minimum of two weeks before your first deadline.
- Check with each teacher a week to 10 days before the application is due to be sure that the letter of recommendation has been sent.
NO LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION ARE REQUIRED OR PERMITTED FOR UC OR CSU APPLICATIONS.
Letters of Recommendation: What Not To Do
- Assume that recommendations are quickly and easily prepared (they are not).
- Ask a teacher to write a recommendation on the day it is due.
- Drop off the form at the last minute as you leave for vacation.
- Ask more than two teachers to write recommendations for you unless special circumstances dictate. This is an inefficient use of teachers' time and is considered to be an imposition on the third teacher when only one or two recommendations are needed.
- Neglect to thank the teacher for his or her help.
- Neglect to let the teacher know where you have been admitted, especially if they wrote and sent a letter of recommendation to a school where you have been accepted.