Rationalizing Recommendations

Teacher letters greatly benefit students applying for college admittance


Michelle Abrams

Student information sheets for recommendations can be picked up anytime at the counselor’s office.

It is the season of college applications, and seniors are facing the important decision of where they want to spend the next years of their lives. While many Texas schools offer automatic acceptance based on GPA, some students do not qualify. In these cases letters of recommendation from a teacher, counselor or adult leader can help.
There are two different kinds of letters of recommendation: academic and character. Academic letters are usually written by teachers, and character letters are written by school counselors.
“Students should ask for a letter of recommendation from a teacher that they feel connected to,” English teacher Kim Drain said. “[Students should ask] a teacher that can attest to more than just what grade they got in their class, because a good recommendation letter is one that is very personalized.”
Because recommendation letters are personalized, teachers and counselors ask for student information sheets. These sheets contain specific questions that a student answers about themselves. Parents are also given the opportunity to answer questions on a parent information sheet that is attached to the back.
“[The schools] are looking for [good] examples,” counselor Terri Hazen said. “We have [students] fill in the student information sheet so that it gives us very specific information about them. Schools want their letters of recommendation to be specifically about [them], and I might not know those things or their teacher might not know.”
According to Drain, when asking for a letter of recommendation, students should come in person to ask with their information sheet in-hand.
“[Students] should come in and personally ask if the teacher will give them a letter,” Drain said. “[They should] have that blue sheet ready when they come in.”
Students are asked to give the teacher at least two weeks notice before the application deadline for the colleges they are applying to.
“You’re supposed to give a minimum of two weeks notice, but I really think you should give them a month,” senior Elena Cosme said. “Letters of recommendation take a while [to write], and [teachers] might have to write other letters of recommendation.”
Student and parent information sheets can be picked up at the counseling office at any time with a limit of one copy per person. Students are responsible for making any extra copies needed to hand out to their teachers.
“Letters of recommendation help colleges to see specific things about you,” Hazen said. “[Getting in] could come down to a letter of recommendation.”