By the end of your junior year, you need to be prepared to ask two teachers for college recommendation letters, and it’s a good idea to keep building those relationships throughout high school. While this is a little more challenging in the age of COVID-19 and distance learning, there are still ways you can get to know your teachers so they can provide an authentic, detailed picture of you as a student and member of the community when it’s time for you to apply.
Here are some tips for cultivating those relationships:
Be engaged in class. Hours of Zoom classes can be draining. But staying engaged in class will make a positive impression, especially if you are learning remotely or in a hybrid situation. Show courtesy, respect and enthusiasm. Listen intently, take notes, ask questions and show that you are paying attention. Participate in the in-class chat and in discussion boards outside of class. Distant learning is challenging for teachers, too, but they enjoy teaching students who are excited to learn and will remember and appreciate students who participate.
Approach your teachers outside of class. We know this comes more naturally for some students than others, but in order for your teachers to truly get to know you, we recommend you interact with them outside of class, too. Make note of their office hours, and use that time to ask questions about a recent assignment or test, an upcoming project, or even careers related to the subject they teach if it’s something you enjoy. Or ask about the content of a sequential class, especially if they teach that one as well. You can even work in questions about their plans for an upcoming break or how virtual teaching is going – they will appreciate being asked! Your conversations with them are also a great opportunity to start sharing information about your activities, goals and college plans.
Show initiative. In addition to doing what is required, extend yourself. If you did poorly on an assignment, ask if you can redo it, not just for a better grade but to ensure you understand the material. Show that you care about other students’ success as well as your own. Read or do research beyond the minimum required and share that information to help others learn. Create a study group or online book club, or offer to be a peer tutor if it’s a subject in which you excel.
Regardless of where you are in your high school career, continue to think about building those relationships. Remember, when it’s time to request a letter, you’ll want to ask a teacher who knows you well and taught you recently or worked with you in an extracurricular activity – not necessarily just someone who gave you an A. Planning ahead will ensure your teachers know you and have plenty to say on your behalf when you approach them later for a recommendation.