College Recommendation Letters: Saying Thank You

This is the time of year when high school teachers and counselors are flooded with requests to write college recommendation letters.

Writing a college recommendation letter is a thankless job and I’m glad that I’ll never have to write one. But that doesn’t mean that I’m off the hook.  My role in the college recommendation process is to make sure that the teachers and high school counselors are appreciated.

This week, I’m going to buy gift cards from Starbucks or Barnes & Noble for my son Ben’s calculus teacher and his principal, who wrote his college recommendation letters.

Actually, it isn’t just the parents of high school seniors who should consider giving gift cards to teachers. This might sound duplicitious, but I have given gift cards in the past to teachers, whom I thought might end up writing a college letter of recommendation for my son or daughter.

Admittedly, high school students usually don’t give their teachers presents, but giving a gift card or a plate of cookies could make them feel even more warmly towards a student when it’s time to write college recommendations. I bought Barnes & Noble gift cards for Ben to give to his 11th-grade teachers with college recommendations in mind, but he forgot to bring them on the last day of school.

Buttering up your teenager’s high school counselor also couldn’t hurt. When my daughter was in high school, I always wrote a thank you to the head counselor after she put on a college night or college fair. When she requested that parents bring food to one of the events, I brought a plate of sushi from Costco.

I think engaging the high school counselor is important because typically they aren’t going to know a teenager nearly as well as the teachers. Counselors, however, wield a lot of power when they write recommendations and complete the secondary school report for seniors. In this report, which is sent to colleges, the counselor includes a profile of the high school and compares your child’s performance and academic workload with others students in the senior class.

Like I said, that’s a lot of responsibility for someone who might not know your child very well. In a sea of students, I’d suggest that counselors are more likely to remember a student if he or she or the parent writes a thank-you note.

Will saying thank you help? I will never know for sure, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.

Further Reading:

Acceptance Letter Etiquette

College Applications: Should You Apply Early Action?

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  1. It should be the STUDENT writing the thank-you note; if they’re old enough to be (soon) departing for college, they’re old enough to write their own thank-you’s! If a parent wants to also write one, great.

  2. That’s a great idea! I’ve heard many professors complain that they were not thanked for graduate recommendation letters that they’ve written for students. I think part of the reason this happens is also that the letters go directly to the schools (students are not allowed to see them). I’ll definitely take the time out to thank my professors this year.