How to Write an Excellent College Recommendation

I have spent most of my teaching career outside the United States teaching in private American International schools. For the most part, my students have represented very high achievers, the cream of the crop. You might think it easy to write recommendation letters for top students, but in reality it can be quite daunting.

Top students apply to top schools. Once their GPAs and scores on standardized tests qualify them for their dream school, it is left to the students’ personal statements and teacher recommendation letters to distinguish them from the thousands of others who are just like them.

While my method will not guarantee an acceptance, I know that my letters contain the kind of information the college admissions officers want to see. They are specific and carefully written. College
counselors and college recruiters who have seen my letters have told me so and held my letters up as exemplars for my colleagues. I have even received a letter from an admissions officer (Princeton) thanking me for the way I presented an individual student (who got only as far as the wait list), reassuring me that teacher letters of recommendation are read very carefully. I have saved that letter and have never forgotten how important my letters can be.

Over the years I have devised a system of information gathering and writing that works well for me. I am an English teacher, but the procedure I discuss in these pages is effective no matter what subject you teach.

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