So It Begins!

Feeney's Writings
Sereena Feeney

More stories from Sereena Feeney

Najee Rhodes
March 30, 2017

It’s time to give an assignment to our teachers.

Here’s the rub: how well they perform may make or break your chance of getting into your dream college. Will they pass or fail the test of writing you a great letter of recommendation?

Why do colleges want teacher recommendations?

Colleges value these recommendations because they reveal insights about students that test scores and grades can’t. They give insight on a individual’s character from a personal perspective. Getting a letter also shows who is willing to speak on a student’s behalf.

Teacher recommendations should present you in the best possible way, showcasing your skills and abilities. Colleges should be able to recognize that this teacher spends a significant amount of time with you, therefore they trust them to provide a picture of who you are as a scholar and person.

The biggest challenge is deciding who you are going to trust to write your recommendation.

I’m sure your first instinct is to go to your favorite teacher, but you have to realize a teacher who knows you best may not be the teacher whose class you did best in. Mr Calkins, one of ODA’s college counselors, expressed what you should focus on when making this decision.

You should seek out a teacher who is involved in the area you hope to study in college. Look for a class that you showed the most effort in learning the material, even if it was difficult.

From these letters, colleges learn about your character: how you interact with your peers and classmates, how well you prepare for your classes, your level of your engagement in the classroom, your contribution to life on campus, and your dedication to certain activities.

After deciding on the teacher, it’s important to ask them properly. Be sure to ask in a timely manner. What is this? College counseling advises asking teachers for the recommendations around now, late March. Even though most teachers write the recommendations over summer break.  Asking for the recommendation letter early allows the teacher time to consider specifics to include in the letter.

Also be sure to provide the the teachers you ask with any information that might help them write the letter–make the process as effortless as possible for them.

CCO offers a form to guide that content building process. The form encourages students to note what kinds of things have been covered in the class and how the student performed. Students are asked to recall favorite topics, favorite projects or assignments. They are asked to note challenges they faced and how they overcame them. The form also leaves room for students to indicate what area of study they are interested in. This specific information helps the teachers offer good specifics.

You don’t want a generic letter of recommendation. The more information your teachers have about you and the colleges to which you are applying, the easier it will be for them to personalize your letter and show why you are a great match.

You and your teacher should work together on what aspects of yourself separate you from everyone else.

If you’re a junior and going through the process, the time is now to ask your teachers for recommendations. What’s the worst they can say? No. Then you’re just where you began. No worse.

However, don’t wait too long. Your favorite teacher might become loaded with requests and have no choice but to turn you away. You definitely don’t want that happening. When your teacher says yes, don’t forget to provide all the tools she needs to write the best letter ever.

Haven’t asked yet? Get to it!