What Makes For a Good Teacher Recommendation? It Might Not Be What You Think.


There’s one important thing that juniors should add to their “spring to do list”: ask for one or two teacher recommendations. In this blog we break it down for you and give some advice about who to ask.



Let’s start with the basic requirements for teacher recommendations. Most colleges that you will apply to are going to require one or two teacher recommendations. Additionally, colleges require that those recommendations are from major subject teachers from junior or senior year. So, that significantly narrows the playing field. Note: a “major subject teacher” is typically what we refer to as the main five: English, History/ Social Studies, Language, Math, Science. Also note, many college applications are due in the fall or winter of senior year. That means, those senior year teachers may not know you very well yet.   So that limits the playing field even more. Now we are talking about one of the “main five” teachers from junior year. **


** this is the “typical” situation, there are always exceptions and students who ask senior year teachers, etc. This is just the most common scenario.


Who to Ask

Now that you have it narrowed down to those five teachers, the question is, which two should I ask. The answer might surprise you. First, consider these qualities that typically make for a great teacher recommendation:


  1. The teacher knows you well and can speak to your personality
  2. You have done something “above and beyond” in that class that the teacher can write about (ie, an exceptional presentation, extra credit work, helping other students)
  3. The teacher knows you worked really hard in their class


Common Misconception

One thing junior students tend to do is quickly think about the teacher of the class that was “easy”, meaning you earned your highest grade. This isn’t always the way to go. If you sailed through that class, never went above and beyond and never got to know the teacher, then what will the teacher write about? “My class was very easy for Lindsay…” Nah.


Struggle is Surprisingly Endearing

Now, think about this. Perhaps there was a class that you struggled in initially. But, you met with the teacher after school a lot, did extra credit, and generally worked your butt off to learn the material and increase your grade. Think about all the awesome material that teacher will have for your recommendation.


From the College Side of Things

For a moment, put yourself in the role of the College Admission Counselor who reads thousands of these teacher recommendations. What are some things they would like to read about? They love anecdotes, examples and insights about what you are like as a student and what you will ultimately be able to offer their school. Now, which teacher of yours currently can speak to these things?


You are going to have SO much to do during the fall of senior year, it will be one less thing if you ask for your teacher recommendation(s) now. You can enjoy the summer knowing you have a verbal agreement with one or two teachers.


Please note: every college applicant has a unique process for applying to college. Some students need one recommendation, some two, etc. This blog is meant to reflect the “typical” college applicant. For specific advice and questions, make an appointment with a Campus Bound Counselor today!