Today is “Thank-A-Teacher Day”, learn how to ask your teacher for a university recommendation

Posted a year ago

There is no doubt that teachers play a critical role in educating generation after generation of students who move through the world’s global education systems gathering knowledge as they grow.

While any one student has one educational experience, every teacher participates in hundreds or thousands of these experiences generously sharing their wisdom before ‘letting that student go’.

However, there are also many teachers who keep on giving through a single letter they pen for students who come to them asking for a university application recommendation. It is this reference that speaks volumes to admissions officers trying to get a clearer idea of exactly who the student applicant is.

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So how do they go about it? How does a teacher who is obviously extremely dedicated to increasing their student’s chances of gaining admission into a world class university craft a letter compelling enough to lift their student above the rest?

According to Harvard University, which this year recorded the world’s lowest student admission rate at 4.5%, teacher recommendations (Harvard requires a minimum of 2) are key to their admissions officers learning more about the student than just his or her scores and grades.

According to the Harvard document: Teacher Recommendations: What are US Colleges Looking For, while admissions officers are obviously interested in learning about a student’s exam results, they also want to know more about how a student engages both in the classroom and beyond. For example: Does the student use their talents to pursue community engagement? Are they leaders who support other members of the class? Do they contribute to team activities? Have they achieved something extraordinary during the course of their recent studies?

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Basically admissions officers, who often have to read through tens of thousands of applications, want to know more about who that student is and what they can potentially contribute to their university campus - and they rely on teachers to ‘fill in the gaps’.

It is for this reason that many students ask for recommendations from teachers who have known them for some time - who perhaps have taught them across more than one year - and as such can talk to the student’s progress both as a student and a person.

These are the teachers who are not only able to shed more light on a student’s academic prowess and enthusiasm, but also on their sense of curiosity, their strength of character, their leadership abilities or even their ability to bring a positive sense of energy to the classroom.

So as you can see, some teachers actually play a part in their student’s education - not just as they move up high school grades - but also as they move from their teen years into adulthood and embark on a university education that will shape them personally and professionally for the rest of their lives.

The above just highlights yet another reason to celebrate teachers during teacher appreciation week which falls on the first full week of May (Sunday May 5 - Saturday May 11 - with Teacher Appreciation day being the Tuesday, May 7). While the first Teacher Appreciation Day was held in 1953 when Eleanor Roosevelt persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim National Teachers’ Day, the tradition has continued as millions of students around the world give gifts, write letters and express their thanks to the people who play such an important role in their development.

How to ask your teacher for a recommendation

So if you are a student preparing to ask your teachers for a US or UK university application recommendation, the best thing you can do is ask your preferred teachers early to get them time to prepare a reference they will feel proud of, give them some guidance as to how a recommendation letter can be written and most importantly thank them for all they have done for you as a student in the past, the present and the future.

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