BSM students receive a form requiring signatures from teachers writing letters of recommendation. (Brook Wenande)
BSM students receive a form requiring signatures from teachers writing letters of recommendation.

Brook Wenande

Letters of Recommendation: Teachers

In the college application process, students must acquire two letters of recommendation from their past or current teachers. As the year progresses, an increased amount of students are rushing to find teachers to write a letter for them. With up to 20-30 letters to write over the course of the year, teachers have their own opinions on this high stress recommendation process.

Almost all letters of recommendation are written on a teacher’s own time. The school gives one day to teachers late in the second semester in order to complete letters, but one day can only go so far. Lisa Bargas, one of the more commonly asked teachers for these letters, writes mostly during her free time. “If you have a certain number of letters, they will give you a day to write letters, but it’s on your own time pretty much but except for that one day,” Bargas said.

You kind of have to think about giving a good idea of what each individual person can bring to a university or college

— Fred Bandel

As each letter is written, the process becomes understandably repetitive. When writing over 20 unique reports, strategies must be implemented to avoid repetition. Fred Bandel, another teacher that sees many requests for letters, finds ways to personalize them. “I think it’s human nature that sometimes you find yourself writing similar things, but you have to kind of step back a bit and approach it on an individual basis. You kind of have to think about giving a good idea of what each individual person can bring to a university or college,” Bandel said.

So how can students ensure that their teachers write the best possible letter for them? The answer is to simply be a quality student. Although this seems like a cliche answer, it’s the truth. Actual positive interactions with a teacher in class leave more of an impression than anything else. An ‘A’ in their course doesn’t necessarily tell the full story. Seeing good character in the classroom is the best way to leave an impression on a teacher and lead to a great letter. “Just being a good citizen in class, and yeah, just being a good human.” Bargas said.

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Letters of Recommendation: Students

A way to commemorate a student’s true ability in the classroom is through letters of recommendation. Junior students at Benilde-St. Margaret’s are looking for two or three teachers to write their recommendations. Letters of recommendation are often a big part of getting into students’ colleges of choice, which is why stress can be high throughout these few months.

Students have different opinions on which department writes the best letters of recommendations. Some believe that it is more about the subject a teacher teaches. “From the two I asked, I would say the English department writes the best letters because I feel like it’s always a subject that is a little bit more personal than let’s say, a math class. It’s a little bit more opinionated,” Junior Sky Rold said.

Other students think that it is more about your relationship with the teacher rather than what subject they teach.“I honestly think it depends more on your relationship with the teacher. I know that a lot of colleges prefer to have your core subjects teachers write you letters, but I think that honestly, it’s just based on who you have the best relationship with,” Senior Samantha Steensland said.

Getting recommendations is an essential part to applying to college, but lots of teachers sports to write these fill up quickly. “Teachers often fill up, so it is important to ask right away. For example, Mrs. Olson is really good at writing letters of recommendations, so I made sure to ask her right away. I am glad I did, because now, she has started to decline kids due to time constraints,” Rold said.
Connections with teachers can be a vital part in the process of selecting who to ask to write the letters. “I chose Mr. Gross, he was my math teacher, which is a core subject, and he’s been my math teacher for three years. I chose him because he has seen me throughout high school and [seen] how I’ve grown and how I’ve adapted my learning abilities. I also chose Mr. Bandel who is a history teacher. I had him for only one semester, but in that semester, we got to know a lot about the class, and he was able to see how I could balance everything…I wanted to give colleges kind of two different sides, a long term teacher and a short term teacher to see how they both have positive things to say about me,” Samantha Steensland said.

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