A 10 Step Strategy to Getting a Teacher Recommendation

I’ve been reading the comments on the last blog and it looks like the 10 Strategy is in demand. So, I’m posting it right in the AirBubble blog. If you’d like to subscribe to the AirBubble blog, please do and I’ll be sure to send you more helpful information as the topics arise.

1. Your Name is Your Brand

Within the first week of school, make a point of talking to each of your teachers after class. This should take no more than a minute and the purpose is to putyour name in their heads. Do not approach a teacher in the beginning of class – they’ve got too much on their minds and you’ll just annoy them. Wait until the end of class and use this trick.

Prepare a specific question for your teacher that’s easy to answer

Leave your books, bags and computer at your desk – make sure your hands are free. Then, lead with a handshake and say, “Hi, I’m Mary Smith. I was looking over the syllabus and I have a question about…”

The key here is not to look frazzled or confused but confident. Your teacher has lots of names and faces to remember. Make a positive connection with your teacher within the first week because it’s much easier for a teacher to remember the first 10 names out of 100 than the last 10 names.

2. Get to Class Early – as in before the teacher

Most teachers are at least a minute or two early to class. If you’re regularly at a desk before the teacher as well as the majority of the class, your face will start to stick out of the crowd simply because there are fewer faces to compete with. Especially in a large lecture auditorium, a teacher will start to recognize the early birds. Leave your phone off, lift your head up and smile. The only reason you’re there early is to catch the teacher’s attention, not to catch up on your text messages.

If you arrive to class late regularly, your teacher will also remember you. Unfortunately, it won’t be in a favorable light.

3. Sit In the Front Row

If you doubt this strategy, go back to the Airbubble blog and read the 5/12 entry – The Mysterious Game of Musical Chairs.

4. Put a Voice to Your Name

I hate to do this to you but you’re going to have to participate in class. The key to this strategy is quality not quantity. Pick a few lessons and arrive super prepared by reading ahead. You know the part when the teacher says – “next week we’ll be talking about…” Well, you’re going to take the time to read up on that topic so when you open your mouth it will be memorable. If you find it difficult to do this then talk to them after class too. You can talk about class or even better, find a way to make their lives easier by telling them about a resource that can decrease their workload. If you want to find out how to do this then Click here.

Teachers love students who participate but teachers really love students who are prepared for class

5. Safe Stalking

Find a reason to visit a teacher’s office – more than once during a term. The worst thing you can do is show up on a teacher’s doorstep having no previous contact and ask for a recommendation. You might as well cold call them during dinner.

Here’s a suggestion. Follow-up on your tests and papers in-person. Unless you’re a 4.0 student, there’s always room for improvement and a teacher will be impressed you made the effort.

6. Safe Stalking Phase II

Remember, this is a multi-month strategy. You now need to stop by the teachers’ offices you had the last semester and say a quick hello. This part is easy and even somewhat enjoyable because you’ve successfully laid the groundwork for a relationship with your teachers in the earlier steps. Poke your head in their office and say – “Hey Prof. Smith, good to see you!”

7. Connect Virtually

Teachers love an audience so give them one. Follow your teachers on Twitter and reach out to them on LinkedIn. Stay away from Facebook – no good can come of this. You may be living clean on-line but your friends’ friends may not be as virtuous as you. The last thing you want is your worlds to collide.

8. Do a Background Check

Find out what schools your teachers attended, companies they worked for, and programs they participated in. If you’re lucky, your teacher may be an alumnus of a school or program that is of interest to you. Here’s the key – alumni love to tell you about their experience and that’s your in to make a connection. Let your teacher know you’re interested in their alma mater. There’s nothing better than an alumni recommendation.

Here’s another strategy. Your school will have bios on teachers. Identify teachers who are alumni of the programs or companies you are interested in and then take their class or make a point to meet them.

9. Let Your Grades Do the Talking

If you’ve got a B+ or greater in a class, a teacher would be hard pressed to turn down a request for a recommendation. The reality is, however, that you may not be doing well in all of your classes. Therefore, you should target the teachers in your better courses. And when you make your request, remind the teacher of your current grade in the class. “I have an A- in your class and I really enjoy the material. I’d like to ask if you could write me a recommendation for …..”

10. Author Your Own Story

I’ve saved the best for last. Let’s assume you’ve executed the strategies above and application due dates are looming. The teacher you’ve targeted knows your name, your face and your exemplary level of work. But, you’re nervous to ask for the recommendation because it requires time on the part of the professor. To get over the hump, you are going to prepare your own professional statement with all the facts needed to write the recommendation.

When you ask the teacher, hand them a single page document. “I’ve prepared a professional statement so you’ll be familiar with my academic background.”

Congratulations! The last hurdle has been cleared. By handing a teacher your one page summary, you’ve now taken the last burden off a teacher. They know you, they like you and they are thrilled you’ve done the work for them.