How to Pick Which Teachers to Ask for Letters of Recommendation (2023)

How to Pick Which Teachers to Ask for Letters of Recommendation (1)

Sadhvi Mathur6Applying to College,Recommendation Letters

Most colleges you apply to will ask you to submit 2-3 letters of recommendation with your application. These are letters from your teachers, mentors, and guidance counselors that boast of accomplishments and character, and advocate for your college readiness. As a student, you usually don’t get to see these letters before they’re sent to colleges, but it’s your job to build relationships with your teachers and ask them to write a strong letter for you.

(Video) HOW TO ASK FOR REC LETTERS: which teachers to ask + detailed email walkthrough! || CAPS PART 1

Remember, teachers don’t get paid to write recommendation letters for their students, so you’re asking a huge favor of every teacher who writes you a letter. Which teachers should you trust to take time out of their lives and write you a stellar letter, one that you may never get to see? Read on to find out.

How To Pick Which Teachers To Ask For Letters of Recommendation

When you’re deciding about which teachers to ask for a rec letter, think back to all of the teachers you’ve had throughout high school. Consider these questions:

  • Which ones did you know well? Which ones knew you the best?
  • Were there a few teachers whose classes you really excelled in?
  • On the flip side, was there a class that you struggled in but took the initiative to seek help from the teacher and improve your performance?

Any teachers that you think of when asking yourself these questions are potential candidates for your letters of recommendation.

As a general rule, you want to pick a teacher who knows you not only as a stellar student, but on a personal level as well. Pick a teacher with whom you’ve communicated a lot, shared a bit about yourself with, and overall can speak to who you are as a person. Ideally, this teacher will know you not just in a classroom context but also in an extracurricular one. For example, a speech teacher AND debate coach, history teacher AND Model UN advisor, or other teachers who played more than one role in your high school career probably know you best and would write a good letter.

Ideally, you want to ask a teacher who had you as a student recently, within the last year or two if possible. These teachers are likely to remember you the most. However, if you really want to ask a teacher that you had freshman year, you absolutely can do that. You just need to be sure to go and meet with that teacher periodically to get reacquainted before you ask for a rec letter.

In fact, it’s a good practice to meet with all the teachers you wish to write your recommendation letters; it helps you get reacquainted and discuss your interests, goals, and background. This way, you and your teacher can be on the same page about the kind of student you are and how you want to present yourself to colleges. Some teachers ask students to prepare a “brag sheet,” or basically a casual resume, so that they have a better idea of your overall profile.

If you can, also try to diversify the types of teachers you ask to write your letters of recommendation. In other words, try to have teachers from all different subject areas write your rec letters. For example, you could have one STEM teacher rec along with a humanities teacher rec. This will show colleges that you can excel in many different subject areas.

If you can’t do that, the next best thing is to make sure that you get recommendation letters from teachers in your subjects of interest. For example, if you’re applying to a college as an Economics major, try to get an Economics, Math, or even a Government teacher to write your rec letter, as they know how well you do in subject material related to your future major.

How Many Teachers Should You Ask To Write You Letters of Recommendation?

Colleges rarely ask you to submit more than two teacher rec letters. However, you as an applicant may feel like you should ask more than two teachers and try to submit extra letters of recommendation. Is that the smart choice?

Generally, we at CollegeVine say that it is not. Remember, admissions committees are people too, and they have to sift through thousands of applications each year. If they have to read through three letters of recommendation instead of two for your application, and the third doesn’t add a different dimension to your application, you might leave a sour taste in their mouth. They may think that you’re trying too hard or are trying to cover up other weaknesses in your application with extra recommendation letters. It’s best to avoid these potential assumptions by sticking to the required number of recommendations.

That said, if you feel that an extra letter from a non-academic mentor, such as a coach or club advisor, would reveal valuable information that your teacher recs can’t, you may consider seeking an extra letter. Just do so judiciously, and be sure that the extra rec will reveal another layer of who you are.

Some students may also want an extra teacher to write them a rec letter in case one of them falls through. Again, we at CollegeVine feel that this is risky. As we’ve mentioned, teachers don’t get paid to write you a letter of recommendation. They are doing it out of kindness. They’ll likely not take it well if you didn’t even end up using the recommendation letter they took time out of their busy schedules to write.

Instead, try asking two teachers to write you recommendation letters months in advance to give your teachers adequate time to plan and write your recommendation letter. You can check in every month or every few weeks or so to remind them about the letter, but you shouldn’t bug them any more than that. By giving your teachers more time to write the letter, you are better ensuring that you will get not only the right number of letters, but also well-thought-out letters that stand out to colleges. If you really want to be safe, you can even set the “deadline” a month before the actual application deadline, so that you have some leeway if a teacher needs more time.

How Important Are Teacher Letters of Recommendation?

Admissions committees typically use letters of recommendation to get a more personal take on who you are as a student. After all, your letter grades, GPA, and other stats show how well you perform, but they don’t give an accurate picture of what kind of learner you are, how you work in a classroom setting, what your interests are, etc. Only a teacher who knows you well and can speak to these things can do that.

So, your letters of recommendation should not just speak to your accomplishments, but speak to the kind of person you are in an academic and extracurricular setting. Are you the type of person who speaks up and asks questions, or are you the silent genius in the back who gets straight A’s but never raises his hand? Think about how you want to come across as a student to colleges, and perhaps you’ll get a better idea of which teachers would be best to write your letters of recommendation.

Now, it’s important to note that not all colleges will weigh your rec letters equally. Smaller, private colleges or colleges with a holistic review process will likely pay more attention to your recs than larger, public colleges who get thousands of applicants every cycle. This is simply because the larger colleges don’t have as much time to give your letters of recommendation more than a cursory glance as they have thousands of other applications to review. In general, however, rec letters are given about 10-15% weight of out the 100% of your entire application. In comparison, academics are about 30% of the picture, and extracurriculars 25%.

Want a more detailed answer to how important teacher letters of recommendation are? Check out our blog post: How Important Are Letters of Recommendation?

For More Information

Want to know more about rec letters and how you should go about procuring them? These blog posts should help:

(Video) Requesting letters of recommendation

A Step-By-Step-Guide To Your Recommendation Letters

What Makes A Good Recommendation Letter?

10 Tips For Talking To Your High School Teachers

9 Rules For Requesting Letters of Recommendation From Teachers

Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

(Video) TikTok: Selecting Teachers to Write Letters of Recommendation

FAQs

Which professors should I ask for letters of recommendation? ›

Whom should I ask for letters of recommendation?
  • Someone who knows you well.
  • Someone with the title of "professor"
  • Someone who is a professor at the school granting your baccalaureate degree.
  • Someone who has earned the degree which you are seeking in your graduate work.

Can you ask a teacher you barely know for a letter of recommendation? ›

How do I get a letter of recommendation from professors I don't know personally? Accepting you are known to the instructor, it should simply include asking. Plan to see the educator, and give a copy of your resume (and possibly a copy of your record).

Who should you not ask for a letter of recommendation? ›

Who NOT to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
  • A Teacher Who's Famous but Doesn't Know You.
  • A Teacher Who Taught You Early, and for a Short Time.
  • Someone Who's Related to You.
  • Your Best Friend (Unless It's a Peer Recommendation)
  • Someone Who Doesn't Have the Best Impression of You.
10 Jul 2020

Can I ask a sophomore teacher for a letter of recommendation? ›

Who should I ask? The general advice is for students to ask two junior year major subject teachers. Those are the teachers with the most up-to-date information, which colleges appreciate. However, there are times when a sophomore year teacher might know you better (particularly if junior year was spent virtually).

Can I ask my senior teacher for a letter of recommendation? ›

If a college/university requires 2 letters of recommendation from teachers, students will generally get a letter from a junior year teacher and a senior year teacher.

How do you get letters of recommendation if you don't know anyone? ›

What to Do if You Don't Have Anyone to Write You a Recommendation Letter
  1. Reach out to your academic advisor. ...
  2. Reach out to former professors. ...
  3. Ask your boss (or former boss) ...
  4. Take a class and build a relationship. ...
  5. Talk to Admissions.
15 Nov 2021

How many teachers should you ask for recommendations? ›

It's best to submit two teacher recommendations from either your junior or senior year. One should be from an English teacher, and the other can be from a different discipline, depending on the area you think you may study. Your high school counselor should write the third recommendation letter.

Does it matter who writes your letter of recommendation? ›

Letters of recommendation should be written by people who know you well and who have been responsible for evaluating your academic or professional work. Professors and workplace supervisors are both appropriate. Get some tips from our admissions team.

Do professors have favorite students? ›

They Do Have Favorite Students

If it feels like your professor plays favorites, you're probably right, to some degree. Quinnipiac professor R says that she definitely gets to know and like certain students more than others.

Can you fake a letter of recommendation? ›

If you are caught having forged a letter of recommendation, you will obviously be denied admission or have your admission and any degrees rescinded if your deception is discovered after being admitted. Beyond that, you could face even more severe consequences.

Do professors like letter recommendations? ›

Students who seek recommendations often do not know (and are not asked to consider) how they could help their professors write more effective letters. Professors tend to dislike writing letters, in part because they have insufficient information to provide accurate, specific, and honest evaluations.

Can you ask middle school teachers for college recommendations? ›

School Teachers

A teacher (ideally junior year teachers) can speak to your academic strengths and personal strengths. If an institution requires more than one letter of recommendation, you should prioritize someone who knows you well, taught you recently (junior year teachers) and someone who leads a core subject.

Can you ask a middle school teacher for a letter of recommendation? ›

Ask a teacher (or two) who knows you well and in whose class you excelled. The better relationship you have with your recommender, the more insightful your recommendation letter will be. It helps if the teacher is known to be a strong writer, too! Request your reference letters in person.

Is it rude to ask for a letter of recommendation via email? ›

If a face-to-face conversation isn't an option, you can always ask for a letter of recommendation via email. Scheduling a time to meet ensures that the person has time to devote to you, and it allows you to explain why you've selected them as the best person to write the letter.

Can you ask any teacher for letter of recommendation? ›

Depending on the kind of letter of recommendation you want, you'll need to ask the appropriate teacher. Generally, you'll want to choose a teacher who knows you well, has a positive opinion of you, and can highlight your strengths.

How early should you ask for letters of recommendation? ›

The first step in requesting a letter of recommendation involves timing. Even for seasoned teachers and counselors, each individual letter takes time and thought to do well. I recommend asking your recommenders at least a month before your application deadlines. In some cases, even earlier is better.

How do I ask a specific teacher? ›

The best way to make your preferences known is to write a letter to the school's principal. You can certainly discuss placement with the current teacher, but since the principal typically makes the final decision, she's your go-to person.

What teachers should write recommendation letters? ›

Teacher recommendations should be honest appraisals of a student's academic performance and intellectual promise. They are intended primarily to convey the teacher's classroom experience with the student, giving colleges an idea of how the student is likely to perform academically.

How do you ask for a letter of recommendation from a professor you haven't spoken to in a while? ›

Make a formal request of your professor (by email or by appointment), asking if he or she would be willing to write a letter or fill out a form on your behalf. Explain the purpose of the recommendation and why you have chosen the professor. Give the professor time to consider your request.

Can a principal write a letter of recommendation? ›

Some students ask a principal, department head, or even someone famous or in goverment to provide them with a letter of recommendation. While this kind of letter can stand out if the recommender knows the student well, it won't necessarily impress admissions officers just by virtue of the person's authority or fame.

Are two letter Recommendations enough? ›

You might need anywhere from zero to four letters of recommendations. As mentioned above, the majority of colleges want to see at least an evaluation from your school counselor. On top of this, many colleges, especially those selecting on the basis of academic merit, seek one or two teacher recommendations.

Do colleges contact recommenders? ›

Dear Active Girl: It is not typical for colleges to check any references for jobs and activities. Logistically, this would be very time consuming to do for the tens of thousands of students who apply. Plus, letters of recommendations serve as references for you and your accomplishments.

How do you ask for a recommendation from someone you don't know well? ›

If You Don't Know Someone Really Well

First, send a cordial email with a subject line that says something like “Saying hi!” or “Checking in!” Start out by asking how they are and about some part of the school or organization that they'd be able to answer. For example, “How's French class this semester?

How many letters of recommendation is too many? ›

The wording clearly means that more than three letters is acceptable. In fact, one might conclude that three letters is the bare minimum and a "good" application should have more. I would normally consider five letters to be a lot (though not harmful, as discussed above).

Can you reuse letters of recommendation? ›

You may need the person sending the letter of recommendation to submit it separately each time. The easiest way to reuse letters of recommendation is usually on an application platform, where the letters are automatically used as often as you apply to colleges.

Can an elementary teacher write a letter of recommendation? ›

An elementary teacher recommendation letter can be written by anyone who has worked closely enough with any applicants to authoritatively comment on their teaching abilities.

Can recommenders see where you apply? ›

The short answer is no. If you want to know “why?” keep reading! When you invite a teacher to submit a recommendation for you, they will only be able to submit the recommendation on your behalf. You will not be able to see the contents of their recommendation and they will not be able to see your application.

How many letters of recommendation do you need for Harvard? ›

First, let's start with the basics. We require two letters of recommendation. You may submit up to three. We strongly recommend that at least one letter of recommendation come from an academic source.

How long is a letter of recommendation good for? ›

Letters don't expire, they decay. As each year passes they are worth that much less. I'd say the half-life is about 3–5 years, but it's very context-dependent.

What makes a student a teacher's favorite? ›

By asking questions, taking notes, and being an active listener in class, your teacher will gain a lot of respect for you as a student. It is important to pay attention during lectures and lesson plans rather than play games on your phone and talk with your friends.

How do you win the teacher's heart? ›

To impress your favourite teacher, never give him/her the chance to punish you. Wear the right dress: Teachers really love students who know the classroom manners and etiquette. Wearing revealing dresses (breaking school or college dress code) will catch wrong attention of not only the teacher but also the principal.

What makes a favorite teacher? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

Can you pay someone to write you a letter of recommendation? ›

You can pay for a letter of recommendation right here. Recommendation letters are an important part of your application to school or a new job.

Can you get in trouble for being a fake reference? ›

No, most employers who catch you using a fake reference won't bother filing a criminal complaint, and even if they did, most police departments probably wouldn't bother investigating.

Are recommendation letters verified? ›

Guess what? About 52% of prospective students write the letter and get it signed from recommender. We don't know what percentage of 52% got admission, but from real life experience, universities assume the authenticity of the recommendation letter. Probably very few (less than 1%) might check the authenticity.

Is a month enough time for a letter of recommendation? ›

It's best practice to give at least one month in advance, and more if you're applying to graduate school. At absolute minimum, you want to give them a two week's notice. This will allow them to reflect on your work and character, and have a conversation with you if they want more information.

How long should you give a teacher to write a letter of recommendation? ›

Start early. Ideally, give the person three to four weeks, but never less than two weeks to complete the recommendation. Most faculty and staff are very busy and have numerous recommendations to write, so you want to be courteous.

How long should I know a professor before asking for a letter of recommendation? ›

5-6 weeks before recommendation is needed: Ask the professor either in office hours or by email if the professor is comfortable writing to recommend you for your given context, e.g. graduate school, a job, a scholarship.

Which professors should I ask for letters of recommendation? ›

Whom should I ask for letters of recommendation?
  • Someone who knows you well.
  • Someone with the title of "professor"
  • Someone who is a professor at the school granting your baccalaureate degree.
  • Someone who has earned the degree which you are seeking in your graduate work.

Why is it important to ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation at least four weeks in advance of when it's due? ›

Asking early will not only give your teachers the time they need to write a well-crafted letter, but it will also give you peace of mind. Apart from following up with a reminder and thank you note, your work on recommendation letters will be done!

Who is the best person to ask for a letter of recommendation for grad school? ›

It is important that a recommendation letter be written by someone who knows you well academically. Faculty members most commonly write letters of recommendation; however, other professionals who know you well and have supervised your work in academia or research may also be appropriate choices.

Who should you not ask for a letter of recommendation? ›

Who NOT to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
  • A Teacher Who's Famous but Doesn't Know You.
  • A Teacher Who Taught You Early, and for a Short Time.
  • Someone Who's Related to You.
  • Your Best Friend (Unless It's a Peer Recommendation)
  • Someone Who Doesn't Have the Best Impression of You.
10 Jul 2020

Can I ask my senior teacher for a letter of recommendation? ›

If a college/university requires 2 letters of recommendation from teachers, students will generally get a letter from a junior year teacher and a senior year teacher.

Can I ask a sophomore teacher for a letter of recommendation? ›

Who should I ask? The general advice is for students to ask two junior year major subject teachers. Those are the teachers with the most up-to-date information, which colleges appreciate. However, there are times when a sophomore year teacher might know you better (particularly if junior year was spent virtually).

Is it annoying to ask for a letter of recommendation? ›

It is fine; don't worry about it. This is a very common situation: many graduates will apply to more than one program that needs recommendation letters.

Can a classmate write a letter of recommendation? ›

Your Best Friend (Unless It is a Peer Recommendation)

Your friends and classmates should not write your college letters of recommendation. Letters should be from people who taught or supervised you, not someone your age who hangs with you for other activities.

How do you get letters of recommendation if you don't know anyone? ›

What to Do if You Don't Have Anyone to Write You a Recommendation Letter
  1. Reach out to your academic advisor. ...
  2. Reach out to former professors. ...
  3. Ask your boss (or former boss) ...
  4. Take a class and build a relationship. ...
  5. Talk to Admissions.
15 Nov 2021

How long should you know a professor before asking for a letter of recommendation? ›

5-6 weeks before recommendation is needed: Ask the professor either in office hours or by email if the professor is comfortable writing to recommend you for your given context, e.g. graduate school, a job, a scholarship. 3.

Can you ask middle school teachers for college recommendations? ›

School Teachers

A teacher (ideally junior year teachers) can speak to your academic strengths and personal strengths. If an institution requires more than one letter of recommendation, you should prioritize someone who knows you well, taught you recently (junior year teachers) and someone who leads a core subject.

Can I ask my boss for a letter of recommendation for college? ›

When thinking about who to ask to write your letter of recommendation, consider asking one of your teachers that you have worked with in school and who knows you on a personal level. You can also ask your school counselor, employer, coach, mentor, or another adult that will be excited to help you succeed.

Can you ask a current teacher for a letter of recommendation? ›

Teachers with experience are often a good choice, although a relatively new teacher can be great too if she knows you well. You may be able to share guides on recommendation letters with your teachers, but you'd have to gauge whether they could benefit from and be open to these resources.

Can you fake a recommendation letter? ›

Contacting the Recommender:

If you are caught having forged a letter of recommendation, you will obviously be denied admission or have your admission and any degrees rescinded if your deception is discovered after being admitted. Beyond that, you could face even more severe consequences.

Is it rude to ask for a letter of recommendation via email? ›

If a face-to-face conversation isn't an option, you can always ask for a letter of recommendation via email. Scheduling a time to meet ensures that the person has time to devote to you, and it allows you to explain why you've selected them as the best person to write the letter.

How long should I give a teacher to write a letter of recommendation? ›

Start early. Ideally, give the person three to four weeks, but never less than two weeks to complete the recommendation. Most faculty and staff are very busy and have numerous recommendations to write, so you want to be courteous.

Is 3 weeks enough for letter of recommendation? ›

#2 Give at least 3 weeks notice

Not only will this put undue pressure on your referee, but will also mean they will simply not be able to put the time and effort in that an effectual letter requires. Give them enough leeway by notifying them at least three weeks before the application deadline.

Can you ask a professor for a letter of recommendation twice? ›

It is fine; don't worry about it. This is a very common situation: many graduates will apply to more than one program that needs recommendation letters.

Does it matter who writes your letter of recommendation? ›

Letters of recommendation should be written by people who know you well and who have been responsible for evaluating your academic or professional work. Professors and workplace supervisors are both appropriate. Get some tips from our admissions team.

How many teachers should you ask for recommendations? ›

It's best to submit two teacher recommendations from either your junior or senior year. One should be from an English teacher, and the other can be from a different discipline, depending on the area you think you may study. Your high school counselor should write the third recommendation letter.

Are you allowed to read recommendation letters? ›

Can I get copies of my letters of recommendation that were sent to a college? It depends. You're allowed to request and get copies of your letters of recommendation unless you've signed a waiver giving away your right to access them (you can still ask for the names of the references).

What if you can't use your boss as a reference? ›

If you are currently employed, you may not want your boss to be a reference, but prospective employers will need some way of vetting your current performance, so consider outside consultants, previous colleagues or a trusted mentor within the company as a substitute.

How do I ask my high school teacher for a letter of recommendation? ›

How to Properly Ask a Teacher for a Letter of Recommendation
  1. Choose the right teacher(s).
  2. Plan to ask well in advance of the deadline.
  3. Ask in person.
  4. Approach individually during an appropriate time.
  5. Provide all necessary information.
  6. Be respectful of your teacher's process.
  7. Handle any mail-in duties or purchases.
17 Jul 2020

Can I submit the same letter of recommendation for multiple colleges? ›

No. Separate letters of recommendation are required for each application you submit. Recommenders are asked to provide a recommendation based on the particular program for which you are applying, so letters of recommendation are specific to each application.

Videos

1. LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION ADVICE FOR COLLEGE APPLICATIONS: Asking Teachers, Getting the Best Letter
(Rachel Lin)
2. 100% PROVEN TO WORK | HOW TO ASK AND RECEIVE REFERENCE LETTERS FROM YOUR PROFESSOR/BOSS/SUPERVISOR
(Ann on Demand)
3. Asking Teachers for Letters of Recommendation for College
(Journey With Jordana)
4. How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation in an Email
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5. How to ask for a letter of recommendation
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6. Letters of recommendation for graduate school | How to ask for an LOR
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