How To Thank Teachers Who Wrote Recommendation Letters

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Finally, the grunt work of the college application process is over. You have gathered all of the necessary documents, written stellar essays, and submitted your college applications. Now, while you wait, it is 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 most importantly, your teachers submitted those required recommendation letters.


Now that you have submitted your applications, you ought to think about thanking your teachers for helping you with your application. What is the most appropriate way to show your gratitude? We at CollegeVine have compiled the following guide to thanking teachers who wrote your recommendation letters for your college applications.


An Overview of Recommendation Letters in the Application Process

Some colleges require their applicants to submit letters of recommendation from their teachers or counselors. In this case, it is customary for the student to ask for a recommendation letter from a teacher who knows them well and can attest to their skills and competence. It is common courtesy to ask for a recommendation letter at least a month or two in advance so that the teacher can have adequate time to prepare and write the best letter possible.


If the college allows the teacher to show the recommendation letter to the student beforehand, the student is more than welcome to take a look. However, with some college applications, the student does not get to see the recommendation letter after it is written.


The teacher will either upload the letter to the correct application portal or mail the letter as a hard copy. Note that if a recommendation letter has to be mailed, it is polite for the student to offer an envelope, stamp, or any other postage fees.


Our Step-by-Step Guide to Your Recommendation Letters gives more insight into the recommendation letter process if you are interested.


Once all is said and done, it is polite for the student to thank the teacher for writing a recommendation letter. After all, letters of recommendation can help a student not just with college applications, but with scholarship, job, and internship applications in high school as well. A strong letter of recommendation is a key indicator of strong performance in the classroom to an Admissions Committee. In some cases, a good letter of recommendation can even sway the application decision one way or the other.


Given the importance of a teacher recommendation letter to a student’s college application, a simple “thank you” may not be sufficient. If a teacher has written you a letter of recommendation for college and you’re wondering how to appropriately thank them, look no further. Here’s some ideas and tips to help you give your teacher the thanks he or she deserves.


Also, if you’re overwhelmed with any other part of the college application, check out our College Application Guidance Program, in which qualified and experienced mentors guide you through the application process.


Why thank the teachers who wrote you a letter of recommendation?

It is not always expected for a student to thank the teachers who wrote 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 do not get paid for writing letters of recommendation, and they often have to write them outside of school hours. This work can definitely 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.


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


Finally, thanking a teacher who wrote you a recommendation letter could reflect well on you professionally. If you end up working with this teacher or someone close to them in the future or soliciting another letter or reference down the line, you will want a good memory like a heartfelt thank-you to be the first thing they remember about you. If you’re interested in learning more about how to build relationship with potential recommenders, see this blog post: How to Get College Recommendation Letters: Building Recommender Relationships.

Want to know your real chances of admission?

Our free Chancing Calculator not only takes into account your academic profile, it also measures other elements admissions officers look at, such as your extracurricular activities. We'll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

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 “you mean 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 her 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 is 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.


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 actually buy one.


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 is 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. 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, you can opt to give them a memento of the college that you will be attending. 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 university you are attending will remind the teacher that they helped you get there, which many teachers will appreciate.


Talk to Them

Regardless of whether you give a card or a gift, you should thank your teacher in person. It is 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, do not stop contact there. Always let them know the results of your application. Teachers want to see their students succeed.


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!