6 Great Ways to Stand Out as a Student (So Teachers Will Give You Strong Recommendation Letters) — Elite Educational Institute


4. Visit office hours

The best letters of recommendation are written by teachers who really know the student in question. Although there are exceptions to this rule, it’s typically not ideal, then, to request a letter from a teacher who you only studied with for a brief summer session, or who you never actually spoke to in person (say, from an online course).

In my own experience, the recommendation letters I write are better the more I know a student. So, if there is a teacher with whom you feel comfortable, don’t be afraid to open up to them a bit.

Why is this helpful for recommendation letters, exactly? If you are taking several AP courses while also juggling a heavy load of extracurriculars, a resume or transcript will show this at a glance. But if you are taking night classes while also raising a child or taking care of your ailing parents, for instance, the extent of your hard work will not likely appear anywhere on paper.

If you take the time to open up about the particulars of your life to a teacher, however, they can speak to your perseverance and grit in a meaningful recommendation letter to an admissions committee. That added understanding could very well mean the difference between a college acceptance or none.

You may or may not have opportunities to open up to your teachers during class. And you may or may not feel comfortable doing so. So, take advantage of your teachers’ office hours, when you can speak with them one-on-one.

5. Turn in an impressive assignment

When writing recommendation letters, the best teachers will not write generally about the student in question. Rather, they will look for specifics to discuss. After all, specific examples are what help readers visualize and relate to what a writer is describing, ultimately becoming convinced of their claims.

In order to do this, teachers need to be supplied with specifics to write about you. So, if you’ve written an especially impressive paper, completed a particularly dynamic presentation, or organized a uniquely inspiring event, bring this to your teacher’s attention. It will give them something to focus portions of their recommendation letter around, and they can point to these specific examples as evidence of your mastery of a subject, your hard work, your passion, or any of your other exceptional traits.

Ultimately, your teacher’s reflections on these detailed examples will give admissions committees something to remember about you as a candidate, which is crucial considering how many applications colleges receive each year.

6. Stay in touch

Typically, students don’t require recommendation letters immediately upon completing a course. So, it can be difficult having to reach out to former teachers semesters—or even years—down the road. In this case, it can feel awkward asking them for the favor of writing a letter since you haven’t spoken in some time. You may wonder if they even remember you!

To avoid this, I suggest emailing your teachers not long after a course has ended just to say a friendly hello, to share that you enjoyed their class, and to ask if they might be open to writing you a recommendation letter in the future. Although you might not require the letter immediately, asking in advance in this way is a good idea for a few reasons. It demonstrates that you are taking initiative by being so forward thinking about your future success. It also helps to plant a seed in your teacher’s mind; they will be more likely to remember you when you reach out to officially request a letter one day.

Beyond this initial email, it is a good idea to simply stay in touch with your former teachers, especially if you believe you will request a recommendation letter from them eventually. Most teachers love to hear from their former students and get caught up on all of their wonderful achievements. So, don’t be shy about sharing yours. Again, if you do so, your teachers will be more eager to help when you contact them for recommendation letters.

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