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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Determine If a Teacher Will Write You a Strong Recommendation Letter

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


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When you ask a teacher to write you a letter of recommendation, you waive the right to read that letter. Many students wonder how they can tell if their teacher wrote a good letter without reading it. This is the one aspect of your application that doesn’t involve your GPA, test scores, or essays, so it can be difficult to let go of control. But there are ways to determine from your experience with the teacher if they’ve written you a strong letter of recommendation.


Asking Your Teacher


The first approach that you can take is to simply ask your teacher. When you approach them about their availability to write you a letter, you can inquire if they will write a strong one for you. This is a direct approach, so be sure to craft your question in a respectful way. Most teachers will tell you the truth because it takes time to write a letter of recommendation. If they don’t have the capacity to craft a strong letter for a student, they will often deny the request. 


If a teacher does not respond to this question, that is also a good indicator of the type of letter that they will write. Teachers are typically forthcoming in telling you that they will write a strong letter, but when they do not plan on doing so, they will avoid the question. 


Analytical Approaches


Look at the classes that you’ve taken from this teacher or the extracurriculars that they’ve helped you with. Ask yourself how much effort you put into their class or activity. If you worked hard and gave it your best, that’s a good indication that they will write you a strong letter of recommendation. 


An analytical approach to determining if your teacher will write you a strong recommendation letter is to look at your numbers. The same GPA, test scores, and class ranking that you put in your college application can be used to determine your letter. Look at how well you performed in your classes compared to your peers. If your grades were above average in the class, your teacher will likely write you an above-average letter. 


Evaluating Your Relationship


The last approach to determining the impact of your letter of recommendation is to evaluate the relationship between you and your teacher. This is one of the best ways to figure out if you will receive a good letter. If you have a great relationship with your teacher and you’ve put effort into developing that relationship, they will be more inclined to write a good letter. 


Conversely, if your teacher speaks with a negative tone toward you, even if you’ve done well in their class, they will probably speak negatively in their letter too. Teachers are humans, and they have their biases, just like you, so observing how they speak to you is one of the best indicators of how they will write about you.

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