Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Teacher Recommendation Letter

Person Writing Teacher Recommendation Letter
You’ve got the grades, you’ve slaved over a glowing personal statement, and you’ve racked up more extracurricular activities than days in the week. Now there’s only one dreaded task standing between you and your college application: getting teacher recommendation letters.   It can be intimidating collecting these endorsements (especially if you’re shy or you don’t have the best relationship with your teacher), but we have some rough news for you: This won’t be the last time you’ll be completing this task. Throughout your education, internship hunt, entry-level job search and on into the professional world, you’ll need to do this—or something similar—over and over again.   Endorsements from those who know and trust you will open doors for you many times as you make your way up the ladder. So instead of viewing this task as a one-time hurdle, think of it as a learning experience that will help you the next time you need the goodwill and testimony of others in order to get ahead.   Meanwhile, keep these tips in mind.

1. Remember: You’re only asking for the truth.

If you hesitate to ask your professor or teacher for an endorsement because you think they’ll roll their eyes, won’t know who you are, or won’t have anything to say that’s positive, think again. If you’ve done your best in their class and you’re asking in good faith for their help, they’ll have no reason to turn you down.

2. Be very polite.

Manners will get you everywhere in this life. A little polish and a gentle and thoughtful approach can be the difference between getting someone to do you a favor and gaining an advocate for life. Approach your recommender at an appropriate time. Ask, don’t demand. Explain your needs clearly. Make eye contact. And above all, thank them for their time and consideration no matter what answer you receive.

3. Provide a long timeline.

If you need your recommendation letters submitted by March 3rd, don’t wait until the last week of February to ask for them. Submit your request as far in advance as possible. Ideally, this advance notice should be delivered months…not weeks (and definitely not days) before deadline.

4. Repeat your request in writing.

Ask your teacher for a recommendation in person if you can, and after you’ve discussed the matter verbally, follow up with a written request. Having an actual email on file will help your recommender remember the details of the conversation, and it will also help them understand exactly what you need and when.

5. Be Forthright and Speak with Confidence

Don’t hold back, procrastinate, mince words, or give confusing directions to your recommenders. Be bold, friendly, and clear. With a little practice, you’ll win the support of those who can vouch for your skills and accomplishments. — Need a reference sample? Check out LiveCareer’s teacher recommendation letter sample.