Laying the Groundwork for a Stellar Recommendation Letter
On a typical school day, the average high school teacher sees 150+ students. That’s a lot of names and faces to remember, especially 1-2 years later when a former student comes asking for a college recommendation letter.
Most teachers are happy to write a letter for students who ask nicely. However, with little to no memory of the student, they must rely on recommendation letter templates. Some teachers ask students to provide a mini-resume to cherry-pick which accomplishments or niceties they want to include in their letter.
Although teachers may have their heart in the right place, these canned responses aren’t the best when it comes to impressing college admissions counselors.
So, how do you get better recommendation letters from your teachers? It’s not about earning good grades and staying out of trouble. A stellar recommendation letter requires laying the groundwork well in advance. What does that mean, and how can myKlovr help you do it? Let’s find out.
Sophomore and Junior Years: Your Time to Make a Good Impression
Sophomore and junior years are crucial for plenty of reasons. You’re dedicating yourself to 1-2 extracurricular activities, and the grades you earn will have the biggest impact on what college admissions counselors think of your academic potential.
It’s also when you should be making a positive impression on your teachers, especially those teaching the subjects you may want to major in in college. Let’s break down some ways you can do this:
Ask for Help
Just because you enjoy a subject doesn’t mean you always earn the best grades. Some subjects are interesting but difficult to master. When you hit a roadblock, ask for help. Doing so features multiple advantages for a future recommendation letter:
- Asking for help shows you possess the initiative and desire to improve.
- You interact with a teacher outside of class, making you not just a face in the crowd.
- College admissions counselors love an underdog story.
Let’s not forget that when you ask for help, you earn better grades and improve your GPA.
Participate in Class
As a former teacher, I write from experience when I say that the students I remember best are those who made a positive contribution to the classroom culture and those who … did the opposite. There were plenty of students ‘in the middle’ who made okay to good grades but left no impression on me whatsoever.
There are many ways you can make a good impression on a teacher, ensuring that they remember you when it comes time to ask for a letter:
- Contribute to class discussions.
- Don’t raise your hand every time the teacher asks for volunteers. But if you have something unique to contribute, go for it.
- Help your peers who are struggling with the material.
- Your teacher is only one person and can’t help everyone who needs one-on-one assistance. They will be thankful if you tutor one of your peers.
- Go above and beyond.
- You don’t have to do a lot. For example, I recall students who came to me and asked if they could modify one of my assignments. Some of their ideas expressed genuine creative thinking and impressed me greatly.
Join a School Club
Typical high school teachers advise 1-2 after-school clubs. This responsibility allows them to interact with students outside of class. Rising sophomores should take note of which clubs their teachers advise and consider joining one. In a club, you can demonstrate:
- Your leadership skills.
- Your ability to work as part of a team.
- Your creativity.
- Your commitment, dedication, and passion.
Also, don’t forget that staying with the same extracurricular activity for at least two years will make your college applications shine.
Keep a Work Portfolio
myKlovr users receive a benefit no high school student should be without – a digital work portfolio. A portfolio allows you to save your best essays, art projects, and other pieces you can show your teacher when you ask for a recommendation letter. Bonus points if the work includes the teacher’s original comments/feedback. Seeing these notes might jog their memory and result in a well-written and thoughtful letter.
There are plenty of ways you can lay the groundwork for a stellar college recommendation letter. Consider the advice we’ve explored today and choose what works best for you. No matter what you decide, strive to make a positive and lasting impression on your teachers. What they remember about you may be the deciding factor on whether you attend your dream college.