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6 Qualities Teachers Look for When Writing Recommendations

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Sophie Alina in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.



What information do teachers look for when writing student recommendation letters? Recommenders have the task of connecting traits necessary to be a successful college student with the traits that you exhibit in your high school setting.


Teachers review your overall personal character, best student qualities, and your future goals. This means you must demonstrate traits that they can observe and write about throughout your high school career. 


1. Persistence and Resilience


No matter the experience level of a teacher or counselor, there are so many ways to discuss a student who refuses to give up positively. Persistence and resilience are two very important qualities of a successful college student. 


In every school, teachers are aware of the students who do not put forth much effort and also the ones who go beyond. If you’re not working hard in one class, even if you are doing your best in another, your chances of getting a good recommendation letter can still decrease. Teachers talk among themselves, and you want a recommender to say that you are a strong overall student in all your classes. 


As a student, if you don’t understand a process or subject, willingness to try is important.  Persisting instead of giving up can be indicative of how you may handle situations in life. Resilience is a strong topic for recommenders. Many students have difficult things going on in their lives. Teachers can point to these experiences to illustrate how even though your life’s been difficult, you still looked for the good in the situation. How an individual copes with difficulties and the outlook that follows can be useful content for recommenders when discussing character. 


2. Authenticity


When you have genuine interactions with individuals, including teachers, your authentic character shines through. If you are bad-mouthing teachers and making poor overall choices, this can undermine your chance of getting a positive recommendation letter. It doesn’t indicate that you have empathy or that you’re authentic. Displaying good character will always be important to both recommenders and colleges. 


3. Resourcefulness


There are many positives to a student who asks questions and also utilizes all resources available to them. It is important that you do both. When a student asks their teacher a question and then continues to refer to the teacher for assistance every step of the way, it may come across as lazy. The above student is less likely to succeed in college, a time when self-reliance and resourcefulness are imperative as in some instances it may feel as though you’re teaching yourself. 


What does a self-reliant and resourceful student look like? Let’s take a student who may have been confused about the information on their homework, for example. That student first checks their available resources, which can include notes, Google, tests, and more. After reviewing this information, they find they still don’t have the necessary information for the assignment. This student is then self-reliant enough to know that the instructor is also a resource! Ultimately, they go out of their way to find an answer instead of expecting it to be given. 


4. Consistency


A consistent student works hard every single time, not just for specific tasks. This student is always putting in their best effort and going the extra mile, which is pertinent for recommendation letters. 


Being consistent can be demonstrated by participating in activities like going to tutoring. Attending tutoring shows initiative and passion for your success. It is also important because it offers you the valuable opportunity to build better relationships with your teachers. As many teachers have upward of 100 students each, it is important to make sure that you are someone they have individual interactions with if you would like a recommendation letter. 


5. Organization


Being organized does not directly speak to your ability to succeed. However, if your teacher is always having to ask for missing assignments or you often find your papers and notes crumbled up, that does not bode well for a good recommendation letter. You do not want a recommender to say that you are a super-strong student but your lack of organization is affecting your grades negatively. 


6. Staying Focused on Your Goals and Dreams


Choosing to focus on your goals and aspirations, instead of the typical high school drama, shows that you are a passionate student who cares about important things. Many students feel comfortable talking about dating, friends, and other aspects of school life with teachers. It is always amazing when students find a safe space, but you should also choose to talk about your goals and dreams with them. This allows teachers to use the recommendation letter to speak directly to your passions and how college can assist in your future success.


More Questions About Recommendation Letters?


If you found this to be helpful, watch the rest of Sophie’s livestream, How To Build Relationships and Secure Amazing Recommendation Letters.


Refer to the following College Vine articles for more guidance: