Teacher Evaluations

Teacher Evaluations
While teacher evaluations (also called teacher recommendations) are not a requirement for all college applications, they are an important component of those that do require them. Strong evaluations can move you from a "possibly admitted" to an "admitted" admissions decision.

Many competitive colleges require two teacher evaluations. Teacher evaluations should support the other application documents and demonstrate that you are ready to excel in college.

The first step to acquire strong teacher evaluations is to make good impressions on your teachers. Every day in class consider the impression your behavior is making on your teachers.

To ensure your teacher has a positive impression of you take proactive steps:
  • Participate in class
  • Work hard even when material seems difficult or dull
  • Seek help when needed and offer help when possible
  • Act respectfully toward your classmates and your teacher
The second step is to decide which teachers to ask to complete evaluations. Because some teachers may say no, it is helpful to also think who you will ask if your first choice of teacher is unable to write an evaluation for you. Generally speaking, the teachers you ask should have taught you during eleventh or twelfth grade to ensure they have seen you succeed in advanced academic work. Many colleges prefer or require that an English teacher write one of the evaluations because writing skills are an important part of college success. Ask only teachers who you believe regard you and your work positively. Teachers who also know you outside of class as a coach or activity leader may be good candidates because they are likely to know you well.

The third step is to actually ask the teachers to complete the evaluations. Be sure to ask early, politely and, if possible, in person. Do not have your parents or others ask for you. When asking teachers to complete an evaluation, give them a tactful way to say no. You do not want an evaluation from a teacher who will not be able to give you a positive one. By saying something such as "Do you think you know me well enough to give me a positive evaluation for college?" the teacher has an escape. Remember, even if you do not give teachers an easy escape, they may still decline. Some teachers say no because they set limits on the numbers of evaluations they will write each year or because they know they cannot write a positive evaluation.

Be polite and thank all teachers for their time even if they are unwilling to complete an evaluation for you. Do what you can to make the process easy for the teachers who do agree to complete the evaluation. Give teachers any information that you believe would be helpful for completing the evaluation. For example, teachers may want to know about your future plans or your grades in other classes. It may be helpful to ask the teachers if there is any specific information they would like to know.

In general, college admissions officers are most interested in your ability to succeed in college. Therefore, it may be helpful to ask your teachers to focus your academics. If there is anything else you want your teachers to write, ask them to include the information if they believe it would be appropriate.

If the evaluation is to be mailed by the teacher, print the form, complete basic information such as your name, and provide a pre-addressed envelope. Not all high schools cover the cost of college materials postage; therefore, it is also a good idea to offer to place a stamp on the envelope. If money is an issue for you or you want to find out about norms at your school, you can check with your guidance counselor. If you are going to be mailing all of the materials with your application, be sure the teacher knows to return the form to you in a sealed envelope. If the evaluation is to be done online, give the teacher all of the necessary information.

It is appropriate to respectfully ask about the progress of the evaluation as the deadline approaches. Some teachers may need the reminder.

The final step in the process is to formally thank the teachers. A small thank you note should be given to those who wrote evaluations on your behalf. Give your teachers the thank you notes soon after they have submitted the evaluations.

You Should Also Read:
Applying to College -- An Overview
Writing a Quality Admissions Essay

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Content copyright © 2022 by Susan D. Bates. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Susan D. Bates. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Eliza Morrison Nimmich for details.