Preparing for College

Recommendations: How Current?

Question: Just how current do teacher recommendations have to be? My daughter had a great English teacher in 10th grade who also is the Drama Adviser,whom she had a good relationship with both in class and in Drama productions, but am not sure if colleges prefer something more recent- like from 11th grade. Would welcome any comments on this subject.


That’s good question and one that puzzles many students and parents. Some colleges (for better or worse) make it easy for you. They will provide very specific guidelines (e.g., “A teacher who taught a major subject in the junior or senior year” or “an 11th or 12th grade English or Humanities teacher”).

When your choices are more open-ended, at least one reference should come from a teacher who taught your daughter in 11th or 12th grade. (More on that in a minute.) However, it sounds like the teacher you cite would still be a good choice for a second reference. (Even if only one is required, it’s fine to submit two. In fact, it’s probably preferable.). After all, this teacher did have your daughter in an important class (English) and she really knows her, too, from the drama productions.

Thus, use this teacher but also add a teacher from 11 or 12. If there are no restrictions placed by the colleges, you can really select any junior- or senior-year teacher, but generally, the more competitive the college, the more important it is to go for a heavy-hitting subject rather than to ask that great guy at the helm of Driver’s Ed.

One final thought: when you solicit the English/Drama teacher for the rec, be sure to include a cover note that “reminds” her (him?) of your daughter’s strengths and successes in sophomore English (e.g., she had her poem selected for lit mag, earned all A’s, contributed often to discussions). After all, no matter how much this teacher loved having your daughter in class, it’s been a while now, and the teacher will be delighted to have her memory jogged. This is also a way to remind her that the recommendation should show off your daughter’s academic side, no matter how many bravos she earned in Drama Club.