Teacher Recommendation Letters
The Teacher Letter of Recommendation is an invaluable piece of information for colleges. It conveys the teacher's classroom experience with you and may describe your extra-curricular pursuits in relation to that subject.
- Your classroom performance is a strong indicator of your future academic performance in college.
- Therefore, ideally your teacher letter will focus on your classroom capabilities. Ask teachers who can write a strong letter of recommendation.
- This is in contrast to your Counselor Letter of Recommendation which is a more holistic picture of you.
Fairview’s process for Teacher Letter of Recommendation can be found here.
Fairview teachers want to take the time to fully personalize your letter. Start early and make sure you submit your forms by the deadlines indicated to the right.
Do I need a teacher recommendation letter?
- Not all colleges require teacher recommendation letters. Check the freshman admission website for each of the colleges on your list to see if they are required.
- More selective schools typically require 1 or 2 teacher recommendations.
- If a teacher letter is not required:
- Ask your counselor if one is necessary to explain how your particular circumstances affected your academic record.
- If the college allows it, consider sending a letter anyway if you know of a teacher who will write a supportive recommendation. It can enhance your application and perhaps be a determining factor in scholarship awards.
- Note the following requirements of colleges in our region:
- CU Boulder, Colorado School of Mines, University of Denver and University of Northern Colorado require no teacher recommendation letters. However, they will accept letters if you have them.
- CSU requires one letter.
- Colorado College requires two letters.
Which teacher(s) should I ask?
- The recommendation letter is usually written by a junior year teacher in one of your core subjects (Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies or a World Language), unless you are applying to a course of study not included in one of these subjects.
- It is sometimes acceptable to send a letter from a freshman or sophomore year teacher, especially if it was an advanced course and/or you are enrolled in a senior year core course under the same instructor. This teacher would be able to speak to your growth over the course of two or more years.
- Ask a teacher who knows you well and who will highlight your strengths in that subject area in the most positive light.
- Applications may require two letters of recommendation. Some require letters from different areas of study to highlight strengths. If not, ask teachers who will write the strongest letters, irrespective of subject area.
- In some cases, the requirement for teacher letters vary by major of study. For example, many engineering departments require one or two letters from math or science teachers.
- If your application expresses a strong interest in a particular course of study, a strong recommendation letter from a teacher of that subject area will reinforce your claim.
- Consider talking to teachers of courses in which you have overcome obstacles to demonstrate significant improvement and perseverence, even if it was not your strongest subject.
How should I ask my teacher(s)?
- Ask in person, not by email. This shows maturity and respect.
- If you're unsure about asking a particular teacher, politely ask if he/she is comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for you. This will give you a sense of whether the teacher will write a strong or weak letter for you.
- Ask your teacher if he/she would prefer to receive your materials via email (as attachments) or in paper format.
What is FERPA and why should I waive it?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all high schools and colleges that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
All colleges will require you to sign a FERPA Waiver as part of the application process. For more information regarding the FERPA Waiver, including why you should sign it and how you might encounter it, click here.
Who sends the letters of recommendation?
All recommendation letters are sent directly from the teachers or counselors who write them, not from students. School policy prohibits the teacher or counselor from giving you the letter, even in a sealed envelope. The colleges and scholarship organizations want to ensure that the teacher/counselor's writing is a candid appraisal of your ability. Thus, the letter must be confidential. Letters are never given to students.
How do I know if my teacher recommendation letter has been sent or received by my colleges?
On the Naviance "My Colleges" tab, click on "Letters of Recommendation" to view the status of your teacher letters.
Check your college's Common App "FERPA and Recommendations" section
If you applied through the Common App, the "FERPA and Recommendations" section for each college will display the status of each teacher letter you have requested through Fairview procedures. Note that the Common App provides this feature only if the teacher letter was required or specifically allowed as optional by the college through the Common App.
Check with your teacher
Ask your teacher directly if your letter was sent to the colleges you listed in your Teacher Recommendation Letters Checklist (see Forms box above).
Check the application status website for your college
After you submit an application to a college, most will email you a link to a secure website with a login that allows you to check which required components of your application have been received or are still missing. You will not be able to use this system to check receipt of any letters that were not specifically required by the application. If you feel a need to verify receipt, call the college admissions office.
Or call the college admissions office
Some colleges start a file for you as soon as they receive any application components, even prior to application submission. Call the college admissions department for more information.