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College Admissions Recommendation Letter

Updated on February 5, 2012

If you’re a high school senior, you’re most likely concerned with college admissions. As you probably already know, different schools have different college admission requirements, and many include at least one recommendation letter. In fact, your college of choice might very well require two or more recommendation letters. Some schools look at more than just your SAT scores and your high school GPA. Such institutions want to get to know more about you personally, as an individual, which is why so many college admissions require at least one recommendation letter. What are they looking for? That depends somewhat on the school and on your program of study, but there are several qualities that are universally appealing. These might include self-discipline, goal setting, citizenship, motivation, and diligence. College admissions might also be interested in learning how you relate to your peers, to authority, and to your community.

Increase your college admissions chances with a great recommendation letter...or two.
Increase your college admissions chances with a great recommendation letter...or two.

Teacher letter of recommendation

As a high school teacher who taught seniors, I’ve written hundreds of recommendation letters for my students. As a debate coach, I’ve also had several debate team members ask me for a teacher letter of recommendation. Typically, a college admissions board will highly value a teacher recommendation letter – especially one from a high school teacher. College admissions aren’t usually too interested in a teacher recommendation letter from an elementary teacher. Your high school years were much more recent and are more indicative of the type of college student you’ll be. The college actually knows little about your character from your college admissions application, while your high school teachers should know you fairly well. They’ve observed you in a school setting and should be able to predict with some degree of accuracy how you will perform in an academic setting. That’s why it’s important to get a college recommendation letter from your former instructors.

Other sources of recommendation letters for college admissions

As I’ve already alluded to, a college letter of recommendation doesn’t have to come from a classroom teacher. Coaches, guidance counselors, and high school club advisors with whom you’re well acquainted can also be good sources for recommendation letters for college admissions. For example, if you’re majoring in business and were an exemplary member of your high school business and marketing club, a recommendation letter from the club’s faculty advisor would be a good idea. If you plan to major in physical education and hope to become a sports coach, your football or baseball coach would be a great source for a recommendation letter. If you hope to major in journalism and worked on the high school newspaper, a college recommendation letter from the paper’s faculty advisor would be valuable for college admissions.

Tips for a teacher letter of recommendation

Some college admissions applications will include questionnaires for your teachers to complete. These are fine, but written letters are better. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one thing, when a teacher writes a college letter of recommendation, he or she is not limited by a form. The instructor is free to include more information, which might help your chances of being accepted into your college or university of choice. For another thing, when an educator takes the time to write a personal letter instead of just filling out a form, it shows the college admission board that the teacher thought enough of you and your academic chances to write a real recommendation letter.

Of course, it’s also important to get recommendations from teachers and other faculty members who believe in you. For example, if you slept a lot in chemistry class and barely scraped by, you probably wouldn’t want to ask your chemistry teacher for a college recommendation letter. It’s important to use some common sense in this situation.

Remember to follow the college admission application guidelines, too. If they require two recommendation letters, don’t send in twenty. If the college admissions board suggests two to four letters, send in four. Always get more than one teacher letter of recommendation, even if only one is required. Turn in the most “glowing” letter with your college application, and keep the rest in reserve. You might be able to use them in the future. For example, if the college narrows down their selections to several students and calls you in for an interview, you might mention that you have more recommendation letters on hand.

Teacher recommendation letter – what to include

Chances are that your teachers are old hands at writing recommendation letters. If not, they need to understand what should be included in a teacher recommendation letter. First of all, be respectful and thoughtful when asking a teacher to complete this task for you. Teachers have very busy schedules, so make the request far in advance of when you actually need the letter. The letter should state the class in which the educator taught you, how long she has known you, and what type of student you were. If the teacher recommendation letter is from a coach or club advisor, the faculty member should explain the type and purpose of the club or team and how long he has known you. In any of these cases, the instructor should also discuss specifics about your character and personality. It’s best if he provides evidence through examples. In other words, if he says you’re motivated and focused, how does he know this about you? By using specific examples, the recommendation letter will sound much more personal and authentic, and not like a form letter. At the end of each college recommendation letter I wrote, I included my contact information, along with instructions for the college admissions board to contact me for more information, if needed. Make several copies of each recommendation letter, and keep them in a safe place.


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    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Teaches, that's an excellent idea! Thanks!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Awww, thanks Teachertalking! I really loved teaching high school seniors.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Georgie. I hope it will help seniors who are headed to college and going through the college admissions process.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Great hub article on this topic. As a college professor I always recommend they keep positive statements and written examples from instructors for their portfolio. I will use this in support when talking with future graduates.

    • teachertalking1 profile image

      teachertalking1 5 years ago

      Wow! Your students are very fortunate to have such a caring teacher! Your dedication to your students is very admirable! Thanks for sharing such an insightful hub!

    • georgiecarlos profile image

      georgiecarlos 5 years ago from Philippines

      I remember when I was applying for college and I was trying to figure out how to go about the different processes. I wish I was able to read something like this when I was in high school. Very helpful to high school seniors! Good job!