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Articles / Admissions / Should 9th-Grade Teacher Rec be an Extra?

May 15, 2020

Should 9th-Grade Teacher Rec be an Extra?

Question: My retired freshman year global history teacher offered to write me a college recommendation. She also happened to be my unofficial counselor for a competition for all of my junior year. If she does write me a recommendation, does she take up one of the two necessary teacher recs or does her rec act as the one additional rec you can add? I'm also hesitant to get a rec from her because I've been told that recs from teachers from your junior year are best. However, I feel that she knows me extremely well. Would it be OK to get a rec from her?

If you decide to get a recommendation from this teacher, you should use it as a supplemental one. Colleges will definitely be more interested in official references from teachers who taught you in your junior or senior year. Although this retired teacher may know you better than any others, admission folks may feel that her rec doesn't carry sufficient firepower because she only taught you when you were a freshman.


Although your official teacher references are supposed to be confidential, your extra ones need not be. So you might want to ask this retired teacher to give her finished reference letter to you rather than to send it directly to your target colleges. This way, you can preview it first. Surely it will be a favorable one. She wouldn't have offered to write on your behalf only to say that you're a lazy dimwit ;-). However, sometimes even positive references can work against the applicant (especially those students who are applying to the most selective schools) if these letters are merely complimentary but not effusive and if they just offer a string of flattering adjectives ("responsible," "conscientious") and not some anecdotes to support the praise. At the hyper-competitive colleges, unless your recommender makes you sound like you're one in a million, then the extra rec isn't helpful--or necessary--at all.

But if this teacher's letter shows a side of you that you suspect the others won't and makes you stand out in a crowd, then it may indeed be wise to send it as an extra.

Written by

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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