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Articles / Applying to College / Extra Teacher Recommendations
Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Nov. 22, 2003

Extra Teacher Recommendations

Question: Does having more than the required number of teacher recommendations help in any way?


Most colleges prefer that you stick to the suggested number of teacher recommendations. An extra one won't take you out of contention, but before you solicit references from every instructor who ever gave you an "A" or smiled at you in the cafeteria, do keep in mind that there's an old saying in the admission world, "The thicker the folder, the thicker the kid."

When is it appropriate to send in an unsolicited teacher rec? Typically it's when one teacher knows you inside out but doesn't teach you a major subject or hasn't had you in class since 9th or 10th grade. For instance, if you're the school yearbook editor, then the yearbook advisor probably can speak to your intelligence and sense of responsibility (and probably your sense of humor, too) more than any other teacher you've encountered. But if he or she taught freshman photography or sophomore earth science, you probably want to pick someone else to do your primary reference(s).

Overall, you're far more likely to annoy admission officials with an abundance of non-required recs than you are to impress them with a pile of extras, however glowing.

Hope that helps. Good luck with your applications.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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