Write an Excellent College Recommendation. Step 1.


When you have agreed to write a recommendation letter for a student, direct the student to fill out the information form (see below) and to email the responses to you. I attach this form to my course website and tell students to download it. From the beginning, they must take a certain amount of responsibility in the recommendation process. They may also print out their responses, but a digital version is required. Students must also supply you with samples of graded work that they would like you to mention in the letter.

Done right, responding to these questions requires a substantial investment of time and thought. Ultimately, everyone wins: the teacher has concrete material to work with (and much more detailed “reminders” of the student’s performance than relying on memory alone) and the students have articulated their strengths and challenges as learners.

NOTE: I tell students that I expect them to tick the box on the application forms that waives their right to see my letter before it is submitted. I tell them that if I have agreed to recommend them, that I am therefore going to advocate for them!


DIRECTIONS: Email me a digital copy of your responses to the questions below. Then deliver the HARD copies of the marked-up papers to which you would like me to refer (see #4). The more detail
you provide, the better. Be realistic, be honest and be specific! I must have BOTH the responses and the papers before I write the letter.

DATE the letter is due to the college counselor:_____________________

University/College(s)to which you are applying:

Are you applying for early decision or early action? If so, to which school?

Probable major (indicate subject area or “undecided”):


1. What do you plan to do with your life, and how will the schools to which you are applying help you achieve your goals? Why do you consider yourself a strong candidate or a good match for the schools to which you are applying? (1-3 pghs.)

2. Why am I a good choice of teacher to write a recommendation letter for YOU? (1-3 sentences)

3. What FIVE (5) adjectives describe you best? (5 words)

4. VERY IMPORTANT: What projects or papers done in my classes are you most proud of? Give me the assessed hard copies of two or three of them and write a paragraph about each piece of work explaining WHAT it reveals about your work ethic and yourself as a writer/presenter/team member (etc.).

5. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses as a student, a writer (if not mentioned in #4) and an individual? (2-4 pghs.)

6. What contributions do you make to the life of the school and/or the community? Have you distinguished yourself in ways I may not be aware of? Is there anything else you would like me to know or include, something about you that is not requested on any of your application forms, something that will make YOU stand out from the crowd? (2-4 pghs.)

7. CLUBS: If you are or were a member of any of the clubs/activities I sponsor, discuss your participation and explain how you have grown as a result. (1-2 pghs.)

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