Ask A Teacher: Recommendation Etiquette

Sticky situations at school? Check out the second segment in a 3-part series in which a veteran teacher answers parent questions.


Dear Teacher,
What’s the best way for my senior to ask for a college recommendation from her teacher?

Dear Wondering Parent,
Gone are the days when kids applied to 3 schools. Today it’s not uncommon for students to apply from 7 to 9 schools! And many teachers get multiple requests.

The rule of thumb is to ask at least 3 weeks in advance of the college due date. Ask nicely and with respect. This is a favor and takes a lot of extra time for the teacher; it’s not part of the job. Your student should ask a teacher that he or she has a good relationship with, and who knows him or her well.

After the teacher agrees, be sure all the forms and paperwork are in order. I ask my students to fill out everything on the forms including my name, the name of the school, the address of the school, the date, everything but my signature. Then address the envelopes to the colleges and stamp them (I even ask that they use envelopes where they just peel the tape off … do you know how awful it is to lick dozens of envelopes?). Use the teacher’s last name and the school’s address for the return. Put everything in a folder with a post-it for all the due dates, and hand it to the teacher.

Be sure to write a thank you note or give some sort of token of appreciation to the teacher. A Starbucks or Borders gift card—or even homemade cookies—are always appreciated. And don’t forget to come back and tell the teacher where you got in and where you decided to attend. Your teacher has a vested interest in this!