Depending on the school you are applying to, you might have to have one, two or no teacher recommendations sent. The teacher recommendations sent to colleges are not the same as the teacher recommendations asked for by your school counselor now. What the school counselor is asking for, in most large public high schools and smaller private schools, are recommendations that help the counselor write up the school counselor report required for the applications.
The teacher recommendations are solicited by you electronically depending on the application system you are using. Some schools have a Naviance system in place. The teacher recommendations for both the school counselor and for the colleges are submitted through it. The Common App also has an electronic solicitation system, in which you put your teacher’s email address into its invitation form, and then the recommendation form is forwarded to the teacher. Once the teacher completes the recommendation form, it is forwarded to all the schools on the Common Application that you have added to your list.
If you are confused because the Common Application is not out for the 2016 school year for the Class of 2020, do not worry. You will not have to do this until the fall. If your school is using Naviance, you might be asked for the two teachers now.
So which teachers should you choose? Do you choose the teachers you like or the popular teachers or the one who always gives you an A? Well, I must say that the best recommendations are usually from teachers who have challenged you and helped you to achieve your best. Think of the teachers who truly got to you and those who helped you reach higher than even you thought was possible. This isn’t necessarily the teacher who gave you the highest grade. I am very sure any teacher who took you from barely getting a B or C to getting the A or B would have a lot to say in terms of your drive, commitment, and participation.
Can you have more than two teacher recommendations? No. But you can have two teachers do your school counselor recommendation and two other teachers do your college recommendations. And I always counsel each student that once you have picked your teachers, go to them and ask them in person first. Let them know you value their opinions and respect how much they impacted you as a student. Be gracious. Then send the email request via the Application or let your school counselor know who you want to do your college recommendations. I also have students diary when all applications are to be submitted. Then one week later to put in their calendars a note to send a written thank you on paper. Thank Your Teachers!
Can you see the teacher recommendations? Depending on how the recommendations are done, you might be able to choose to make them confidential or not. Sometimes, depending on the system, you cannot. Often the Naviance system is dictated by the specific high school and you do not have a choice. I always recommend that you send all recommendations as confidential. What does this mean exactly? This means that the teacher will fill out the form and you will not have access to it. Many teachers, as a courtesy, often share a note to students as to what they remarked. Please know that you are selecting the teachers and trust that they only want the best for you!
What do they write? Well, that is actually very limited. The recommendations are not letters written by the teachers at all. The recommendations are actually forms, with boxes to check off as to punctuality, attendance, homework completion, participation, etc. There is a small space for a written note. It is usually very limited; some are 150 characters or less, which is one sentence really. When space limitations are given in characters, not words, know that means characters with spaces. Some might say fewer than 100 words. Either way, know the volume of space that can be submitted with the teachers’ actual comments is very, very limited.
Can I send my own recommendations directly to the school? NO. Please do not send any teacher recommendations to any colleges on your own. What you can do is have some personal letters of reference sent on your behalf. These are not recommendations. These are reference letters. Do not use teachers for these letters. You could ask a coach, employer, family friend, Minister or Rabbi, a Mom you have babysat for, or anyone who actually knows you personally, and preferably for a long time.
Needs some guidance on what would be the best strategy for you in terms of letters of reference or influence, contact us, we can help put together a nice plan as to how to progress forward with your college application plan!