Most private, selective colleges require one or two recommendations from teachers. Currently, any school that uses the Common Application requires at least one academic teacher letter and also one from your counselor. In most cases large, public colleges and universities do not require letters of recommendation. Please check your college admission website to determine if and how many letters are required.

Guidelines and Protocols

  • Provide teachers, counselors, or advisors with a Senior Survey and resume and request a letter 2 -4  weeks prior to the date is due.
  • Request in person. Faculty do not want to write recommendations for students who simply leave notes on their desks or email them. It is also best to ask privately rather than in the lunch area or in a classroom full of students.
  • Let each recommender know how many total applications you intend to submit, along with respective deadlines. When using the Common Application, complete the Teacher Letter Confirmation. This form is due to teachers no later than October 1st for early deadlines and November 20th for Regular Decision.

Which teacher(s) should you ask?
Ask a teacher who knows you fairly well if he or she would be willing to write a positive letter of recommendation. Colleges prefer that you have letters from teachers whom you have had for junior or senior core-level subjects. Occasionally a sophomore teacher will write a letter. The teacher who gave you the highest grade may not be the one who is likely to write you the best recommendation; it is more important that the teacher knows you well.

Ask teachers who will write the strongest letters, even if they are in similar subject areas. However, check your college requirements for recommenders – some colleges require one from a humanities course, and another from a math or science course. Consider talking to teachers of courses in which you have overcome obstacles to demonstrate significant improvement and perseverance, even if it was not your strongest subject.

Who sends the letters of recommendation?

All recommendation letters are sent directly from the teachers or counselors who write them (usually electronically) not from students.  The colleges and scholarship organizations want to ensure that the teacher/counselor’s writing is a candid appraisal of your ability. Thus, letters must be confidential and it is highly recommended that letters are not given to students unless it is required by scholarship organizations

Most recommenders require that you waive your access to a letter of recommendation. It is widely held that letters of recommendation do not have the same credibility with the colleges unless students waive their right of access. See FERPA guidelines for more information.

If you are not applying through the Common Application and your college requires that your letter of recommendation be submitted electronically, provide your list of colleges to your recommenders and follow the procedures or guidelines required by your college

Paper Teacher Recommendation Letters
Most of your recommendations will be submitted electronically through the Common App website. For any colleges, programs or scholarships to which you are applying that do NOT accept electronic applications follow the directions for sending paper recommendation letters required by your college or scholarship organization.


Show your gratitude – write a thank-you note to your teachers for taking the time to write your letter. Please keep your teacher recommenders and our post-secondary advisor apprised regarding admissions decisions.  At the end of the process, notify our post-secondary advisor of your college decision.