7 steps to a great letter of recommendation

Follow these easy steps to get a teacher or school counselor to write you a letter of recommendation that will get you into college!

7 steps to a great letter of recommendation

The aspect of the college admissions process that students most often overlook is the teacher recommendation. A general, surface-level summary of your résumé or a teacher’s recollection of your most admirable personality traits is usually what ends up on most admissions counselors’ desks.

You can, however, help your teacher paint a specific picture of your best academic self. Just follow these seven steps to getting a better rec.


1. Be prepared. 

Have the materials prepared for delivery so after your teacher agrees to write your rec, you can hand them a 9-by-12 envelope with a cover letter from you detailing what materials are enclosed. 


2. Give them the letter’s meat. 

Give your teacher specific material to write about. I have written more than 250 recs. Half of those letters have been excellent, half have not. Give your teacher an essay or project exemplifying your best work. A simple post-it note on your most well-written three to four lines will help us use it as an excerpt in the rec. At the very least, articulate what skills you improved upon the most in the teacher’s class. What unit or topic did you get the most out of? Write that in a cover letter that strikes a polite balance between suggesting and telling the teacher how to best advocate for you. 


3. Ask for official paper. 

Request that your teacher prints your college rec on school letterhead. Appearance does matter.

4. Give a deadline. 

Provide a list of the schools you are applying to and due dates. 

5. Pay for the stamp. 

Provide already-addressed, stamped envelopes for them to send in the letters of rec. Write your name on the back of the envelope, in the lower left hand corner. 


6. Be early. 

Give your teachers all the necessary material well before the due dates. 

7. Say thanks! 

Include a simple thank-you note in the packet for your teacher. Writing a good recommendation letter takes time, and nothing energizes a teacher like gratitude.


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