How should you approach a teacher for a recommendation?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,671
    Jerome Cole, Director of College Counseling at the Edmund Burke School in Washington D.C., explains how you should approach a teacher for a recommendation for college admission.

    Jerome A. Cole, MA

    Jerome A. Cole, M.A., is the Director of College Counseling for the Edmund Burke school in Washington, D.C. and the founder of Cole Educational Consulting Services (Cole ECS.) He has worked with students and families for over seven years to help them plan and strategize for college. As a college counselor at Burke, an independent college preparatory high school founded in 1968, Mr. Cole oversees a program that is designed to support students and families as they go through the selection and admission process for college. Mr. Cole advises over 100 students each year in a small academically challenging environment where every senior is expected to apply to and enroll in college. Prior to Burke, he was a school counselor at Bethesda-Chevy Chase high school in Montgomery County, Maryland. He has successfully counseled hundreds of students and helped them prepare for admission to a variety of schools such as: American University, Clark-Atlanta University, Davidson College, George Washington University, Harvard University, Pitzer College, Stanford University, Temple University, and the University of Maryland at College Park, to highlight just a few. He established the consulting firm Cole ECS to provide students and families with the necessary information and support to make the best choice for college. Cole ECS defines the best choice as the optimal learning and social environment to ensure a student’s holistic success, culminating in on-time or early graduation and desirable post-graduate options. Mr. Cole earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Catholic University, and then went on to obtain a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development from George Washington University. He is certified as a school counselor and is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC).

    Host: How should you approach a teacher for a recommendation and when is the best time?

    Jerome Cole: Let me start with the letter part first. I think the best time is early. I think, the earlier, the better. Even if you have note down your list of schools, the idea of approaching a teacher at the very beginning of the school year; September, October time frame; and saying to that teacher would you write a letter of recommendation for me for college. I think it is the way to go. I think, in terms of your followup; once the teacher is allowed to respond, I think the very next thing that you want to say to him or her is what can I do to help you? Would a resume help; would a list of my extra curricular activities help? Would a short conversation right now about what I am interested in doing in a college? Why I have selected you to write my letter? You taught me two years ago; do you remember when I did this particular paper, your comments about that paper? Do you remember when I did this project? And I did this and that; you might want to offer those types of help; that type of support, if you will, to a teacher. That is going to be very appreciative, because think about it, in a high school setting you are going to have x amount of teachers, where you only have a small percentage of teachers that are going to be writing letters for seniors; a very small percentage. So, therefore in most cases, they are going to be writing multiple letters and in some cases, there may be a situation where; yeah, I know you; I taught you, but that was a year ago; that was two years ago and in between I have taught couple of hundred other kids and I cannot remember every thing. And so, that is why, after you ask, will you agree to write a letter? And the response is yes. The very next thing that you want to do is to offer the help.

    The second thing that you want to do with a teacher is; you want to say to them, either you have your final list and present it to them or you will let them know that I am working on my list; I expect it to get done in a week or two or what have you; as soon as that is done, I will give you the list of schools. I have the deadlines for each school beside it and I will provide you with any teacher recommendation forms, envelops with stamps and address already on it. So, that basically as a teacher all you would be require to do is to sit; drafts up the letter, add it as appropriate, sign it, stick it in the envelop that I gave you and get it off.