College Recommendations

I’m being asked to write college recommendations. I have a hard time with this, because I view it as such an important responsibility. The colleges my students are applying to are often prettycompetitive and every part of the application is important.

My strategy for dealing with this is to send students desiring a recommendation the following paragraph:

When you have all your colleges picked and the forms gathered, will you give me the forms paperclipped to stamped and addressed envelopes? It would be good to have them at least two weeks in advance of when you want them sent out. That way I can do them all in one fell swoop. Also, when I write recommendations, I usually ask students for two things: (1) things you want me to highlight in your recommendation [math or non-math related], and (2) for you to write a sample recommendation for yourself. Why? Well simply put, it is this: recommendations become strong recommendations if there are lots of specific details/specific instances/stories. And you know things I wouldn’t know — like if you formed a study group or something. Don’t feel like you need to be humble. Just write it honestly and with confidence.

I’ve talked to some teachers who have a form they give to students, questions students need to answer about their experience in the class(es) they had with the teacher.

Do any of you do something that makes writing these recommendations easier? Do you have any suggestions about how to write a strong and honest recommendation?


One comment

  1. I do something similar. Our school is so large that the process is partly automated. When a student indicates that she wants me to write a recommendation, I receive an email from her counselor. At that point, I email the student a short questionnaire that they use to reply back with their responses. I ask things like where are you applying? what are you planning to study? what about my class do you want me to mention? what from outside of class do you want me to mention? which of your strengths do you want me to highlight? Then I craft a recommendation around that. Counselors can be very helpful with wording and suggestions.

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