May 28, 2020
The teacher does not need to use an official college form, and, in fact, itâ€™s often better if he or she doesnâ€™t. That way, this supplemental recommendation wonâ€™t be confused with the official ones from your academic-subject teachers.
While itâ€™s tough to tell someone what to say in a letter of reference, keep in mind that the most successful ones are those that stress qualities that set you apart from other students. For instance, a drama teacherâ€™s letter that says, â€œMatilda is an excellent actor and a young woman of great integrity,â€ would not have as much impact as one that proclaims, â€œMatilda is among the very best actors Iâ€™ve worked with in more than two decades,â€ or â€œMatilda has the very rare ability to convincingly play the widest range of roles Iâ€™ve ever seen in a student actor,â€ or â€œMatilda was the only sophomore Iâ€™ve asked to serve as student directorâ€"a job usually reserved for seniors.â€
When you ask a teacher for a recommendation, itâ€™s helpful to provide a stamped, addressed envelope (unless the reference is coming back to you, which is okay for non-required ones) along with a short cover note. In the cover note, itâ€™s a good idea to remind the teacherâ€" regardless of how well this teacher knows youâ€"of some of your achievements and other high points in his or her class or activity. You can also use the cover note to say something like, â€œI am told that the references that carry the most weight are those that illustrate the area or areas in which a student truly stands out or surpasses her peers. If you feel that this is true of me in any way, I would appreciate it if you would include it in your letter.â€
Make sure you thank all teachers who write references for you. A nice touch is to tell them where youâ€™ve been admitted when all of this admission frenzy is behind you and to again say thanks for their role in your acceptances.