Letters of Recommendation

Most private, selective colleges require one or two recommendations from teachers.  Currently, any school that uses the Common Application requires at least one academic teacher letter and also one from your counselor.  In most cases large, public colleges and universities do not require letters of recommendation.  Please check your college admission website to determine if and how many letters are required.

Guidelines and Protocols

  • Ask the same two teachers to write all of your recommendations.
  • Request in person.  Faculty do not want to write recommendations for students who simply leave notes on their desks or email them.  It is also best to ask privately rather than in the lunch area or in a classroom full of students.
  • Ask the teacher if there is anything s/he needs from you to write an effective recommendation.  Some teachers require a resume or have a form that they ask you to complete.  Provide these in a timely fashion, if asked.
  • Let teachers know how many total applications you intend to submit, along with respective deadlines.  Do this by completing the Teacher Letter ConfirmationThis form is due to teachers no later than October 6th for early deadlines and November 27th for Regular Decision.   Teachers have been assured they will know in advance how many total recommendations they will write and their respective deadlines, and that they need not honor requests made after these dates.
  • Once you have asked for a recommendation you will need to make an electronic request through Naviance/Family Connection (instructions below).

Which teacher(s) should you ask?

  • Ask a teacher who knows you fairly well if he or she would be willing to write a positive letter of recommendation.
  • Colleges prefer that you have letters from teachers whom you have had for junior or senior core-level subjects.  Occasionally a sophomore teacher will write a letter.
  • The teacher who gave you the highest grade may not be the one who is likely to write you the best recommendation; it is more important that the teacher knows you well.
  • Ask teachers who will write the strongest letters, even if they are in similar subject areas. However, check your college requirements for recommenders - some colleges require one from a humanities course, and another from a math or science course.
  • Consider talking to teachers of courses in which you have overcome obstacles to demonstrate significant improvement and perseverance, even if it was not your strongest subject.

Who sends the letters of recommendation?

All recommendation letters are sent directly from the teachers or counselors who write them (usually electronically through Naviance), not from students.  School policy prohibits the teacher or counselor from providing you the letter, even in a sealed envelope.  The colleges and scholarship organizations want to ensure that the teacher/counselor's writing is a candid appraisal of your ability.  Thus, letters must be confidential.  Recommendation letters are never given to students.

Requesting Letters of Recommendation through Naviance/Family Connection 

In order to request Letters of Recommendation electronically through Naviance/Family Connection, your Common App and Naviance accounts must be matched (Completing the Common Application).   To do so you must sign the FERPA Waiver.   Most college admissions offices recommend that you waive your access to a letter of recommendation.   It is widely held that letters of recommendation do not have the same credibility with the colleges unless students waive their right of access.  See What is the FERPA? for more information. Directions for requesting Teacher Letters of Recommendation through Naviance:

  • Log in to Family Connection and go to Colleges
  • Click on Colleges I’m Applying to
  • Scroll down to Teacher Recommendations
  • Click on Add/Cancel Requests
  • Select the teacher from the dropdown menu and send

If you are not applying through the Common Application you must have Colleges added to your Colleges I’m applying to list in order to request recommendations.

Paper Teacher Recommendation Letters

Most of your recommendations will be submitted electronically through the Naviance Family Connection website.  For any colleges, programs or scholarships to which you are applying that do NOT accept electronic applications follow these directions for sending Paper Teacher Recommendation Letters

Show your gratitude

  • Write a thank-you note to your teachers for taking the time to write your letter.
  • Please keep your teacher recommenders apprised regarding admissions decisions.  We care, that’s why we write.  At the end of the process, please let us know where you have decided to attend.

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