How to Influence What Teachers Write in Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Rec, Letter of Recommendation, Teacher Recs
Ivy Coach was recently featured in Teen Life addressing college letters of recommendation.

When many students and especially their parents — students and parents who are not our clients but are instead reaching out to us as prospective clients — hear us mention teacher letters of recommendation, they often say something like, “We already asked the teachers for letters. That’s all set. We don’t need help with letters of recommendation.” Oh? Well, as our loyal readers know all too well, we don’t hesitate bursting some bubbles. Simply asking a teacher or counselor for a letter of recommendation isn’t how you give yourself the best chance possible of securing the best letter possible. You’ve got to be more proactive than simply asking your teachers and counselors to write a letter on your behalf! And that English teacher who you’ve heard writes a great letter? Well, don’t count on it! English teachers often write the worst letters!

Our Students Don’t Just Ask Teachers for Letters of Recommendation

Our students at Ivy Coach don’t just ask their teachers and counselor for letters of recommendation. They make it easier for their teachers and counselor to write their letters. They make it oh so easy. And how? Well, in many cases, teachers and the school counselor will provide forms to students and their parents, forms that inform what they write in their letters of recommendation. We help students and parents complete these forms — by filling it with great anecdotes about the student. If it’s a form for a history teacher, writing a whole paragraph about a comment the student made in a class discussion is a great idea and, if done well, it can absolutely end up appearing in the teacher’s letter — verbatim. Left to their own devices, teachers will not write great letters. They’ll write formulaic letters that read, “Ben is a fantastic student. He got an A on every exam in my class.” Admissions officers know your grades. They can see your grades on your transcript. This kind of sentence offers no insight into the student’s character or intellectual curiosity. And don’t waste valuable real estate when completing these forms by writing about how a trip to a history museum as a toddler inspired Ben’s love of history! Admissions officers don’t care about Toddler Ben. They care about High School Ben.

Our Students Help Teachers Craft Great Letters of Recommendation

And if teachers and the counselor don’t offer forms, we help students craft great anecdotes that they then email to their teachers and counselor. You see, teachers and the school counselor aren’t paid to write these letters of recommendation. They write these letters out of the goodness of their hears, often during the summer months. They generally want to help the students they are recommending for admission. They generally want to help their students in the least amount of time possible since, well, it’s summer vacay. And they know students and parents aren’t privy to what they write. So if a student gives a teacher great anecdotes, the teacher is highly likely to include them in the letter of recommendation. Verbatim.

Help Your Teachers Help You!

We recently told Teen Life as much. As the publication reports, “Try for a letter that will mark you as special. How? College consulting company Ivy Coach recommends writing the letter yourself, or at least sections of it, detailing some of the special things you accomplished and what stood out about you. Teachers who have more than 100 students a year are unlikely to remember many specifics, so you can offer your version as notes that you hope will be useful to them. In many cases, teachers will pick up the ideas, or even adopt sections verbatim, if they feel it is an accurate reflection of your work.” Amen!


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