Letters of Recommendation: Tips for Teachers
What are colleges looking for in a letter of recommendation?
In the college admissions process, the teacher’s letter of recommendation plays an important role,
shining a spotlight on the applicant’s abilities in the classroom and/or in an extracurricular
activity. The letter is a chance for a college to hear from someone with whom the student has
What should be included in the letter of recommendation?
• Background information:
o How long you’ve been teaching?
o How you know the student, how long you have worked with him or her?
o Relevant details about the class and/or extracurricular activity in which you worked
with this student.
• Qualities that reflect the student’s qualifications for college and potential for growth
including engagement, motivation, purpose, interest, initiative, leadership potential, creativity,
originality, intellectual independence, relative maturity, special talents, and enthusiasm.
• Specific examples that support your observations of the student:
o Anecdotes from the classroom and/or extracurricular activities
o Details from the student’s work such as presentations, projects, and papers
o Insights into the student’s intellectual and personal growth over time
• Some questions you might want to address in your letter:
o What distinguishes this student from other able students?
o What kind of learner is this student?
o What memorable papers, activities, and/or projects did this student complete for your
o What did the student add to the class on a day-to-day basis?
o Was the student prepared for class? Did he/she actively participate every day?
o How does this student compare to others you have taught over the years?
Most teacher recommendations begin with an introductory paragraph providing background
information. The subsequent paragraphs present specific comments about the student’s strengths
with details to support these observations.
A few points to remember:
• Evidence is the most important part of the recommendation. Be as concrete and detailed as
• Be concise. Aim for one page; do not write a letter of more than two pages
• Your recommendation is important, but by itself it will not make the difference between a
student being accepted and being rejected. Do the best you can to provide an accurate,
human portrait of the student.
Adapted from ACM College Guide (www.acu.edu) and College Counseling Connections