Letters of Recommendation

Which Teachers Should I Ask? 
By Becky Georgenes  - Senior College Counselor, Road to College.  Former Princeton Univ. Admission Officer. 

Juniors:  As you are buckling down, preparing for final exams, there is one thing you shouldn't forget about - Letters of Recommendation. 

Most selective colleges want to see two letters of recommendation from teachers of Core subjects (Math, Science, Social Studies, English, or even Foreign Language). You don't have to decide yet, but it's a good idea to ask at least one teacher before the summer. Pick someone you have had for a teacher during your Junior year, a teacher who perhaps knows you better than most - maybe because you always go for extra help, or because this teacher also coaches a sport you play or advises a club you participate in.  Popular teachers get asked to write a lot of letters of recommendation - so be sure that he or she can say something unique about you. Many will ask you to fill out a form or perhaps write a couple paragraphs about yourself as a student. Even if they don't, you might want to provide them with a resume or a brief letter about what is important to you as a student and a person. Some teachers like to work on their letters of recommendation over the summer, so be sure that they have your contact information. 

Once senior year begins, you should quickly pick a second teacher to write a letter for you. If you happen to have a teacher that you have had earlier in High School, that could be a strong possibility. If it is a teacher who is brand new for you, just be sure you use every opportunity to get to know this teacher well right from the start. 

You should also think about subject matter when you are choosing your teachers. If you are planning to major in Math in college, then it makes sense for one of the teachers to be a math teacher. You should, however, consider asking an English or History teacher to write the other letter for you. Even if it is a subject that you are struggling in, if you have demonstrated extra determination, effort, or growth, that teacher still may be able to write a strong and supportive letter on your behalf. 

And finally, if you aren't sure which teachers you should ask, get some input from your guidance counselor. While you aren't able to read the letters of recommendation, your guidance counselors can. They will know which teachers do an especially good job in letter writing! 

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