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How to Write Letters of Recommendation: Teacher Edition

Calling all high school teachers. So a student asks you to write a letter of recommendation. “Am I qualified to do this?” or maybe “I teach Math, so I don’t have to write,” are the immediate thoughts that pop into your head. Don’t worry! This is a guide to writing the A+ teacher letter of recommendation.

What is a Teacher LOR?

A teacher’s letter of recommendation highlights the student through an academic lens. As a teacher, you witness the student in your classroom and how they interact with other students. College admission officers read your letter of recommendation to gauge how well this individual will interact with college professors and fit into
their academic arena.

Generally speaking, letters of recommendation should be kept to 1 page. There should be an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction allows you to introduce yourself to the admissions team and to what capacity you know the student. This can be brief but personal. The body paragraphs detail information about what the student is like to teach. How do they participate? Do they work well alone or with groups? Are they an introvert or extravert? How do they engage with classmates? How do they apply what they learn? Does the student take academic risks or challenge themselves outside of the classroom? How does the student challenge themselves? Do they know when to ask for help? Are they an observer or an initiator? Do they have any limitations or weaknesses? Has the student ever failed and if so how did they react? What are they interested in studying and do they have unusual academic interests? What makes this student stand out or unique? These are all questions to ask yourself about the student and to include in the body portion of the paragraph. Be specific by providing details of different
situations or instances where the student has exhibited said characteristic. The conclusion can focus on how the applicant is a good fit for either a specific school, or college in general. Showcase why admissions should accept them, or how they would make a positive contribution to the college.

“Because of our highly competitive applicant pool, letters of recommendation hold substantial weight in our admissions decisions. A well-written letter for an outstanding can show impressive characteristics beyond their own self-advocacy.” -MIT Admissions

Difference between Academic and Counselor LOR’s

In general, letters of recommendation are used to portray the student in and out of the classroom. Letters of recommendation reveal aspects about the student that are not apparent in the physical college application. Teacher and counselor letters of recommendation have some overlapping similarities. Both letters of recommendation convey how the student will interact in college, either inside the classroom or on campus. Good guidance counselor and teacher letters of recommendation provide details about the student, rather than summarizing information.

There are distinct differences between guidance counselor and teacher recommendations. A counselor letter of recommendation tends to focus on how the student compares to others in the broader context of the entire school.
Academics are related to the high school’s curriculum and extracurriculars are noted. How the individual student contribute to the high school’s community should be showcased in a guidance counselor’s letter of recommendation. Additionally, the letter of recommendation should highlight any extenuating circumstances or special challenges faced. A teacher’s letter of recommendation is meant to convey how the individual is as a student in the context of the classroom. This letter should showcase the student’s achievements in the subject matter they teach. Teachers offer a unique perspective on how the student participates with classmates and the material in and out of the classroom. How does the student apply their knowledge? What motivates the student to learn? How does the student interact with the teacher and with peers? These are all relevant questions that should be answered in the teacher’s letter of recommendation.