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How To Thank Teachers Who Wrote Recommendation Letters

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Finally, the grunt work of the college application process is over. You’ve gathered all the necessary documents, written stellar essays, and submitted your college applications. While you wait for the acceptance letters to start rolling in, it’s time to reflect on those who helped you in the application process.


After all, you were not the only one who worked hard on your applications. Your parents gave you all of the demographic and financial information you needed, your peers or teachers may have looked over your essays, and don’t forget about your teachers who submitted those required recommendation letters.


Teachers already have a lot on their plate, and recommendation letters are a crucial part of your college applications—some highly selective schools give them as much weight as your GPA or activities list. So, you’ll want to thank your recommenders for playing such an important role in your college process. What is the most appropriate way to show your gratitude? In this post, we’ll answer exactly that question for you.


Why Thank the Teachers Who Wrote You a Letter of Recommendation?


It’s not always expected for a student to thank the teachers who write their letters of recommendation, but it should be. After all, a teacher writes a letter of recommendation out of kindness and compassion for their student.


Teachers don’t get paid to write letters of recommendation, and they often have to write them outside of school hours. This work can pile up, as teachers are generally asked to write between 50 and 70 letters of recommendation per application cycle on top of their other commitments.


While you may not be expected to thank a teacher for writing a letter of recommendation, it’s good manners to do so, and will definitely win the appreciation of the teacher in question. Specially thanking a teacher lets them know that you care about and appreciate their hard work, something that teachers do not always hear from their students.


Finally, while your main motivation should be earnest gratitude, as a bonus, thanking a teacher who wrote you a recommendation letter could end up having professional benefits down the line. If you end up working with this teacher or someone close to them in the future or soliciting another letter of reference from them down the line, you’ll want a good memory like a heartfelt thank you to be the first thing that pops into their head when they see your name.


How Should I Thank My Teachers?


A card


Cards are a simple and inexpensive way to tell a teacher that you appreciate what they have done for you and your future. A handmade card is the most thoughtful and shows a teacher that you took the time to think of them and make them something special.


Note that a Hallmark card or a generic thank-you card from the store does not show the teacher that you put any thought or care into the thank you. There is nothing heartfelt or personal about a generic card.


Thus, if you choose to buy a card, make sure you write a sincere message to your teacher. Don’t use clichés like “your letter meant the world to me” or “words cannot describe how much your letter meant to me.” Try to make the message personal and thoughtful so that the teacher knows how much you care.


A great place to start when thinking about what to write is to recall a specific and fond memory you had with the teacher. Perhaps you two bonded in class over a book you both liked or perhaps there was one lecture in their class that you thoroughly enjoyed and still remember. Adding those fond memories to your message will make your card more thoughtful and personal.



A gift


Getting a teacher a gift is a lot trickier than getting them a card. First of all, it’s important to note that it is by no means necessary. However, if you decide to give a gift, make sure that it would be an appropriate gift to offer a teacher and wouldn’t put them in the uncomfortable position of having to refuse it.


Some schools have policies against getting teachers gifts, and some teachers simply don’t feel comfortable accepting gifts from students. Thus, it is important to check beforehand and make sure it is acceptable to get your teacher a gift before you buy one. Asking your guidance counselor is a good idea, so that way if gifts are allowed, it can still be a surprise for your teacher.


If you know it’s okay to give a gift and you want to, make sure that the gift is heartfelt. You don’t have to get your teacher anything extravagant like a large gift basket or a $100 massage voucher. In fact, you should avoid being too flashy with your gift. It’s not appropriate for the situation, and many teachers may not be comfortable accepting such an expensive gift from a student.


The goal for a teacher gift is to be small but personal. Think about the teacher—what are their interests, passions, hobbies, or obsessions? Perhaps Shakespeare is your teacher’s literary hero, or your teacher loves to put beach decorations around their classroom.


Knowing these little nuances about your teacher will help you get them a simple, personal gift. For example, you could get your Shakespeare-loving teacher a mug with a King Lear quote on it. Or you could get your beach-obsessed teacher a nice beach-themed magnet or poster for their classroom.


If you can’t think of anything that the teacher would personally like, and you’ve already committed to your college, you can opt to give them a memento from that school. This can be anything from the college banner, a mug with the university logo on it, or even a university sweatshirt. Any gift that is related to the college you’re attending will remind the teacher that they helped you get there, which many teachers will appreciate.



Make them something


If you feel like doing something more than writing a thank you card, but buying a gift feels over the top or isn’t allowed, one option is to make them something. This shows an appreciation for the time they spent composing your letter, by devoting some time of your own to do something for them.


Baked goods are a tried-and-true token of appreciation—a plate of cookies, basket of muffins, or pan of brownies are all winners. Another idea is to do something for your teacher that aligns with your interests outside of the classroom.


For example, if you’re interested in woodworking, you could make your teacher a desk organizer; if you’re an aspiring sculptor, you could craft them book ends; or, if you’re into art, you could illustrate a desk calendar.


In the end, a handmade gift is a nice, personal expression that recognizes the effort a teacher put forth in writing your recommendation.



Talk to them, face to face


Regardless of whether you give a card or a gift, you should thank your teacher in person. It’s extremely rewarding for educators to see that they are making a difference in a student’s life and that students appreciate their hard work. Go up to your teacher and thank them sincerely, and be sure to let them know how excited you are about the opportunity they’ve helped you get.


Also, if you choose to thank your teachers before you have gotten your results back, don’t lose contact with them. Always let them know the results of your application. Teachers agree to write recommendation letters because they’re invested in your success, so be sure to tell them about any and all positive admissions results they helped you earn.



How to Thank Other Recommenders?


Although most students only submit the required letters of recommendation, some students will also include a supplemental letter of recommendation—such as a letter from a coach they’ve worked with for years, a supervisor from a business they interned at, a spiritual leader they’ve known for their entire lives, or the head of a nonprofit where they’ve volunteered a considerable amount of time.


The same gifts mentioned above—a card, a gift, or a handmade token of your appreciation—are excellent methods for expressing your gratitude. Because the relationship with supplemental recommendation writers is often more personal, there are some other approaches you can take to show thanks. For instance, you could take them out for coffee or lunch. Inviting your recommender over for a family dinner is another nice gesture.


Because you typically know your supplemental recommendation writer well, don’t hesitate to tailor your gesture to what you know they like or something unique between the two of you. For example, if you and a coach have been meeting at the same park to practice for years, maybe a picnic lunch at the park would be an ideal acknowledgment of their effort.


How to Figure Out Where You’re Likely to Get In?


After you thank your recommenders, all that’s left to do is wait and wonder where you’re going to be this September. While there are no guarantees in college admission, CollegeVine’s free chancing engine gives you personalized odds of acceptance at each of your schools, based on your grades, extracurriculars, course rigor, and test scores (if you have them), so that you can have at least some sense of what to expect once decisions start rolling in.


Unfortunately, one of the only things the chancing engine can’t account for is your recommendation letters, as those are confidential! That said, the chancing engine can give you an idea of how your profile stacks up, and even offers tips on how it can be improved if you’re still in the early stages of the application process.

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.