The importance of thanking your teachers: letters of recommendation

College application season is coming to a close. March and April loom in February’s shadow; the months where most seniors start to hear back from schools. An often overlooked piece of the application process-letters of recommendation-are often considered something that’s just another task to check off during a student’s college application process. In a poll conducted via Instagram on whether or not students have expressed gratitude towards their teachers, 37 voted “yes” while an astonishing 11 others selected “no”.

@wildcat.tribune on Instagram (Daniela Wise-Rojas)

These letters are intended to humanize the student; letters incorporate elements from inside and outside school while showing “different aspects of their personality” that become organized into structured paragraphs, English instructor Ms. Megan Manley emphasized. Rebecca Safier wrote in a PrepScholar blog how “many colleges use a holistic process to evaluate applicants, seeking to understand the ‘whole person’ and not solely rely on grades and test scores.” Hence, the letters of recommendation play a vital role in college admissions. 

 “We’re trying to make you come across as an actual human.” Personal traits like leadership skills, adaptability, ability to overcome obstacles, and more, are factored into this letter, Manley emphasized.

However, these letters aren’t simple. Most teachers don’t say yes to everyone and the letters aren’t a template to paste in more extracurriculars. Check out our video exploring behind the scenes of writing letters of recommendation. As a matter of fact, writing letters of recommendation is a multi-step process. Teachers take the time to first, get to know the student, usually with a one-to-one meeting. Next, teachers take the information from the meeting, as well as details from information provided from the student, and write it all out. Finally, they submit on Naviance. 

Sounds simple, right? Well, Mrs. Annie Nguyen articulated that most letters of rec, when going through the writing and submitting steps, take 1-2 hours. If it takes, on average, 1 hour per letter, multiplied by the amount of letters a teacher agrees to write, teachers are spending a significant amount of their free time writing letters of recommendation. If a teacher agrees to write letters of recommendation for 15 students, that’s 15 hours (at least) of unpaid time. 

Manley articulated that “very little of what we do fits into the paid hours of the day.” From grading, to making lessons, giving life chats, emotional support, and writing letters of recommendation, it’s a job where payment is received in the form of happiness when a student finally gets a good grade or achieves something new.

Teachers’ dedication highlights how important it is to thank your teachers at every opportunity. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center magazine notes the tremendous positive ripple effects of gratitude. Gratitude is good for students and teachers; “studies suggest it makes students feel better about their school” plus “it also makes teachers feel more satisfied and accomplished, and less emotionally exhausted, possibly reducing teacher burnout.” Additionally, among other things, gratitude promotes forgiveness, has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression/be a valuable aspect of therapy, makes people resilient and cope with trauma.

Mr. Jeffrey Vangene stated how even “a virtual thumbs up on the way out of a Zoom, or unmuting yourself [to say goodbye and thanks]” means a lot. Nguyen emphasized how  “the couple of moments it takes to say thank you…it means a lot.”

In short, please thank your teachers. A simple act goes a long way.