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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

About MIT Recommendation Letters by Matt McGann '00

Some helpful tips and guidelines for your teacher letters.

At MIT, we require all applicants to send in two letters of recommendation — one from a math or science teacher (“Evaluation A”) and one from a humanities teacher (“Evaluation B”).

If you are applying this year — early action (November 1 deadline) or regular action (January 1 deadline) — I hope that you have already asked your teachers if they can write a letter on your behalf. Please recognize that teachers are very busy — teachers in this country are seriously overworked and underpaid; I hope you will respect their time. So whether your application deadline is only weeks away, or still months away, please have these conversations now or very soon, if you have not yet done so.

I recommend that you find some face-to-face time alone with each teacher to ask them in person to write your letter, and to have a conversation about it. This is a much better approach than just leaving the recommendation form on their chair and running away. I recommend giving them all of the recommendation forms for every one of the schools you’re applying to at once. This is also a good time to tell them about why you’re applying to each school, and how you see yourself as a match for each place. Teachers often find these conversations very helpful.

If a teacher asks you to write the recommendation for them — do not do this (these requests rarely happen in the United States, but do happen with some frequency abroad). Instead, ask another teacher. Teacher recommendations should only be written by the teacher and by no one else.

If you attend school outside the United States, and have teachers who are not English fluent, this is okay — you can still have them write you a recommendation. They can write in their native language; the letter can then be translated. There are many sources for translation, and one that you may find helpful is an English teacher at your high school. Official translations from agencies are also good. If you send us a translated recommendation, please include both the English translated copy and the original in the native language.

Who should you ask? You should certainly ask a teacher who has taught you in an academic class in high school (i.e. no middle school, and no basket weaving class). Ideally, this will also be a teacher who knows you as more than just a student who does well on all the tests. We find that the best recommendations are written by teachers who know an applicant well as both a student and a person. For example: the English teacher who is your newspaper advisor, the math teacher who is your math team coach, the biology teacher who is your field hockey coach, the history teacher that you talk about politics and health care policy with, the physics teacher who you challenge each day for the best time on the New York Times crossword puzzle, the chemistry teacher who is your mentor.

Also — you do not need to choose the teacher that teaches the subject that you want to major in. You do not need to choose the teacher from whom you received the best grade. You do not need to choose a senior year teacher — but you should choose someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship.

You can choose a teacher who has retired or moved to a different school, as long as that teacher meets the above criteria. The process is the same in this case.

Recommendations can be submitted in one of two ways. The primary method of submission is MIT’s teacher recommendation form, which is available for download from your MyMIT application portal. This form is to be mailed in to MIT. The address is: Office of Admissions; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Room 3-108; 77 Massachusetts Avenue; Cambridge, MA 02139-4307; USA. We prefer that teachers use our forms, but it’s okay if your high school has its own form, or if teachers want to use the Common App’s paper recommendation form. It is also okay — common, in fact — for teachers to write their own letter and not answer the questions on our form. We just ask that your teacher attach that letter to our form — with your name and date of birth clearly indicated — and that the letter address the questions on our form.

We also welcome teacher evaluations submitted through Naviance via the Docufide system. On Naviance, teachers should see MIT on the list of colleges to which these items can be sent. For security and other reasons, we do not accept electronic documents from other online sources at this time.

I get many questions about what subject teachers can write the A or B eval. As a general rule, if the teacher teaches a class that would count towards MIT’s math & science requirement, that teacher should fill out the A Evaluation; if the teacher teaches a class that would count towards MIT’s humanities, arts, and social sciences requirement, that teacher should fill out the B Evaluation.

Purely as an exercise, I made a list of different kinds of classes that high school students might take, and tried to classify them as an A Evaluation or B Evaluation as best I could. A few are pretty fuzzy (and could be categorized reasonably either way — no worries), but most seem pretty straight forward:

A Evaluation potential subjects
  • Math
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Earth Science
  • Environmental Science
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Technology
  • Science Research (as a class)

B Evaluation potential subjects
  • English
  • History
  • French
  • Spanish
  • German
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Hebrew
  • Latin
  • Economics
  • Government
  • Psychology
  • Social Studies
  • Art
  • Music
  • Geography

In some countries/curriculums (for example, the British A Levels and its equivalents across the world), students may not have any current teachers who could write a B Evaluation for them. This is okay; we understand. Often, we see students go back to a teacher from earlier in secondary school (for example, an O Level teacher). In extreme circumstances, we would accept any current teacher for the B Evaluation.

I also get questions about supplemental recommendations. Going through the same exercise as above…

Recommendations that would probably not be an A nor a B Evaluation, but could be a supplemental recommendation

  • Research mentor (who doesn’t teach you in a class)
  • A coach (who is not also one of your teachers)
  • Music instructor (outside of school)
  • An internship/job supervisor (even if for school credit)
  • A third teacher at your school beyond the A & B Evaluations
  • Your principal/headmaster

Most applicants, and most admitted students, submit no supplemental recommendations. Some applicants and admitted students submit one supplemental recommendation; a few submit two. Submitting more supplemental recommendations will not disqualify you, but it is rarely necessary. If you do submit a supplemental recommendation, be sure to include the MIT Supplemental Document Cover Sheet, which is available for download from your MyMIT application portal. Supplemental recommendations cannot be submitted online.

You can track whether or not MIT has received and processed the letter on your MyMIT tracking page. Please allow up to two weeks processing time during peak application season. If the letter has not shown up as processed by the application deadline, do not worry. You may wish to very politely check in with the teacher, but you do not need to constantly hound them. As long as you have given your teachers sufficient time to write on your behalf, they will get your letter in to us. And we are much more flexible with teacher recommendations that come in a little late than we are with late student application materials.

And when MIT does process your teacher’s letter — please thank your teacher. It’s the nice thing to do, and they deserve it.

I hope this is helpful!

[Please note: with this entry, I speak for MIT Admissions. While much of this advice is universal, YMMV1 with other schools for the specific tips, tricks, and rules]

36 responses to “About MIT Recommendation Letters”

  1. Observer says:

    Hello Matt,

    Any news for re-applying applicants?
    The portal still doesn’t work for re-applying students!

    Many Thanks to MIT Admissions

  2. Matt '00 says:

    @Observer: Check MyMIT again. It is working for reapplicants.

  3. WillBe2015 says:

    Hey Matt,

    I’m homeschooled, so I had my extracurricular activity coordinators write letters of recommendation for me and fill out the first page of the Evaluation A & Evaluation B forms. I am having my parents write additional letters of recommendation. Do you think this would be okay?

  4. nddon28 says:

    Would it be alright to use a religion teacher for Evaluation B if the class was writing intensive, namely Catholicism in Literature?

  5. Matt '00 says:

    @WillBe2015: That should be fine.

    @nddon28: That, too, should be fine.

  6. Observer says:

    Well, YES you are right. It’s working.
    Thank you.

  7. Dimitris says:

    great post Matt, it was really helpful!

  8. Teresa says:

    Do the teachers submit the evaluations themselves? Or can I collect them, sealed, and send them both in myself?

  9. yhny92 says:

    Dear Matt,

    Although this question does not pertain to this post, I’m writing it here to reach you faster.

    I am planning to apply to MIT Early as a U.S permanent resident.
    I got admission to the U.S as an immigrant, and the immigration inspector placed a stamp in my passport on my entering the States this September.
    So currently, I have the immigrant entry stamp on my passport, but my social security number and green card haven’t arrived yet. The entry stamp guarantees that my green card will be issued, but I am uncertain whether I’ll be able to get it by the end of October. Is it okay to mail my passport with the immigrant entry stamp to the admissions office in lieu of the green card?

    Another problem is, I contacted my EC and set up an interview. However, she asked me to submit Part 1 of the application first in order to be interviewed. Is it okay to submit Part 1 of the application without filling in the social security number?

    I would appreciate your kind consideration.

  10. yhny92 says:

    Oh, and as of the “immigrant entry stamp,” I’m referring to the I-551 stamp that is interchangeable with the green card.

  11. manu says:

    I’ve the same doubt as Teresa.

    Also, my teacher says that the space provided in the form is not enough to write down some important points. What she should do?

    Thank you.

  12. Teresa says:

    Sorry, I forgot to include in my earlier question the secondary school report as well. Is it okay if I mail all three, sealed?

  13. Iam a student at Itt-tech institute right now but considering of going to MIT. what do i need get there?

  14. Hey Matt,

    This was a very helpful blog. Kudos.

  15. Emily says:

    What do you do if your teacher mailed in their evaluation 2 weeks ago and it still hasn’t shown up in myMIT as processed?

  16. Lane says:

    Hi, Matt –

    I’m a homeschooled student and I have one or two supplemental documents I feel I should submit. The important question is, should I? Are more letters recommended for homeschooled applicants, or will it look worse? Can it hurt? I already have five or six professors/outside teachers who want to write letters, and I’d like to use more than just A and B if it’ll help. (Also, just to be clear – the teachers mail in A and B, but I mail in all supplementals myself?)

    – Lane

  17. Sherilyn says:

    Hi Matt,

    My school uses the Naviance system, and I was wondering, would they need to fill out the MIT evaluation forms if they choose to submit through that? It would be easier for them to just write their own letter instead of using the form, is this possible with Naviance? Or should they just mail their letters in if they wish to skip the form?


  18. Dimitris says:

    Hey Matt,
    I have a question for you. What if our teachers don’t speak English and you need to contact them? I mean, they won’t be able to talk on the phone with you, so what are you going to do?

    Thanks in advance,

  19. Jean says:

    Thank you Matt, this is very helpful. smile
    Also, same question as Sherilyn’s.

  20. Will Records says:

    What do I do if another teacher sent a third recommendation, but didn’t have the supplemental document cover sheet (I didn’t know about it until I read this page)?

    Should I send it separately, with the name of whose recommendation is supplemental?


  21. Matt '00 says:

    @Teresa: Either way works for us.

    @yhny92: I will reply to your email when I return to this office later today.

    @Emily: I would give it until the end of the week; if it’s still not there, ask the teacher to mail in a new copy.

    @john: You would need to apply. Keep reading this website for more details; let me know if you have more specific questions.

    @manu: Many teachers attach additional sheets to their recommendation.

    @Will: No need to worry. As long as it was clear that the recommendation was for you, I’m sure we’ll make the match.

    @Dimitris: We have at times located native speakers to conduct such phone calls for us.

  22. Brian says:

    Hi Matt,
    Applying to the university is my first experience; therefore, I have some unclear facts about the recommendation letters. I am from abroad. According to your advice, I understand that a teacher write the recommendation letter; then, student translate and send it to the MIT office. Do translation is the student’s or teacher’s responsibility? Should translated form include the signature or others to show the authenticity. With whose address should the letters be mailed to the office?

  23. curious '11 says:

    Hi Matt,
    if I want to submit another teacher A recommendation letter, should I use Teacher A Evaluation form (for teacher to fill out and attach his letter) plus the supplemental document cover sheet?

  24. pranav says:

    Hi Matt,
    Applying to the university is my first experience; therefore, I have some unclear facts about the recommendation letters. I am from abroad. According to your advice, I understand that a teacher write the recommendation letter,and if i mail those recommentation letters after taking them from my teachers.With whose address should the letters be mailed to the office?

  25. Abbhinav says:

    Hey Matt,

    I am a U.S. citizen applying for Early Admission and currently studying in India.

    I just have a few queries about the admission process and would appreciate if you could clarify at the earliest:

    1. I have printed the PDF of the Evaluation A,B and Secondary Evaluation Form and my teachers have completed the information. How do I go about sending this online?

    2. Can supplements (scanned version) be sent online by the same process or is it required that I mail a hard copy to the admissions office? The website has stated that a Supplemental Document Cover Sheet is required.

    3. My school doesn’t follow a GPA system. Please guide me as to how to present that in the Secondary School report.

    4. I have already requested an appointment with my interviewer in the last week of September. He replied with a questionnaire to be filled out which I sent on October 10th and I am still awaiting the confirmation of interview date from him. Please confirm whether I’m within the stipulated time for interview.

    Thank you.

  26. Neutron105 says:

    Hi Matt ,

    I have a question regarding the recommendation letters . I attended grades 9 and 10 ( My O Levels ) at one school , and grades 11 and 12 ( my A Levels ) at another . Do I need to send school reports for both schools ? Also , I prefer my O Level teachers to write me the Teacher Evaluations , because they know me a lot , both in , and outside the classroom , is it okay if both the evaluations are from my O Level teachers ?
    And if I happen to change my mind , and decide and decide that one teacher from my previous school , and the other from my new school writes the evaluations , is that ok ?
    *Can an O Level teacher who has tutored me in my A Levels write any of the recommendation letters ?

  27. caps says:

    hi matt,
    i would like know to whether metioning that i am a dyslexic affect my chances at mit(’em an international student so i expect that i’ll have tough competition with other international applicants, ‘ll being dyslexic pull me down)?
    can you kindly shed some light on the life a dyslexic at mit?

  28. Matt '00 says:

    @Brian: Translation is the student’s responsibility. I will want to know who translated the document. If an official translator did it, I would want to see authentication. The original and translated letters should be mailed to MIT Admissions.

    @Lane: Here, we state:

    Extra recommendations can be especially helpful for many homeschooled applicants. We welcome a recommendation from a parent, but require at least three recommendations in total (usually a counselor and two teachers). We encourage you to submit additional recommendations (but don’t submit more than 5 total recommendations) from those who know you well, such as coaches, mentors, job supervisors, clergy, etc. Please attach an MIT Supplemental Document Cover Sheet to any supplemental recommendations you submit. The MIT Supplemental Document Cover Sheet can be found on the Application Forms page on your MyMIT account.

    Your supplemental letters need not be mailed by you, they could be mailed by the recommender.

    @Sherilyn: If submitting the letter through Naviance, the teacher need not submit our cover form.

    @curious: I would use the Supplemental Document Cover Sheet only.

    @pranav: Do you mean which destination address, or which return address? The destination address should be MIT Admissions; the return address could be yours.

    1) You cannot; you will need to mail this to us.
    2) You will need to mail this, too.
    3) You do not need to do anything with the Secondary School Report. The person filling it out will know not to report a GPA.
    4) We are looking into the situation with your interview; if you haven’t already heard back from our Educational Council office, you will soon.

    @Neutron105: You need not send SSRs from both schools (though you may), but we certainly need grades/marks from both places (especially your O Level results). Your recommendations may come from O Level teachers if you still have a relationship with them; I might suggest, though, that you consider getting at least one letter from your A Level school. And yes, it is okay to change your mind.

    @caps: If you mentioned it, we would consider it as part of your context. We do not discriminate against students with disabilities. Student Disabilities Services may be able to tell you more about life at MIT.

  29. Neutron105 says:

    Hello again Matt ,

    Well , I understand that MIT requires one evaluation from a science teacher , and the other from a humanities teacher . Since I did not have any humanities subject for my A Levels , I’ll probably have to go back to my O Level school and ask my Bengali or English teacher to fill in one of the forms . As you suggested , I think I’ll get a letter from a teacher at my A Level school too . However , I really , really want my O Level physics teacher , who has taught me since 7th grade , and tutored me in my A Levels to fill up a form , so is it okay if both my teacher evaluations are from science teachers ? Or should I ask my O Level physics teacher to write a supplementary recommendation letter for me ? He can probably provide a lot more information about me since he knows me so well . In that case , is a supplementary recommendation done by my physics teacher less influential than the Teacher Evaluations A and B ?

    *Should I mail supplementary recommendation with my application materials , or should I ask my teacher to mail it ?

    Thanx in advance smile

  30. Anonymous says:


    I’m an international applicant from India. I did send a mail to the admissions’ office but haven’t got any reply yet.. probably due to the admissions season when you get myriad mails.

    1. In the first section of my application Part-1, I’m not able to fill up my Ethnicity. What should I do?
    2. I’m no more in high school (passed out in May ’10 from CBSE curriculum), and the Secondary School Report is asking for most recent transcript. So, my guidance counselor is asking which transcripts should she attach along with the recommendation letter? The transcripts of 10th standard and 12th standard? (I had CBSE board examinations in 10th and 12th class)
    3. We don’t have GPA systems in our schools. So, what should she do with questions asking for my GPA’s?

    I hope you won’t be annoyed after reading this mail, since most of the times you get the same repeating questions from different applicants.

  31. Anonymous says:

    after reading this *post*. :D Yeah I just copied and pasted the mail.

  32. Kristin says:

    Hi Matt,

    I’m applying for MIT this year, but I graduated from high school in 2005 and danced (classical dance) after high school. Should I still use recommendations from my high school teachers even though it was a long time ago?

    Thank you!

  33. Big Brother says:

    Hello Matt,
    The “response” option isn’t there anymore at your 5 years old blog regarding the homeschoolers.

    Matt my brother has been studying on his own. He’s never had teachers/tutors for past three years (because he couldn’t afford one). Who should write recommendations for him?

    He has joined this SAT coaching class a couple of weeks ago, claims that the teachers there are really impressed by him, but i personally think they don’t know him enough that they could evaluate him both as a person as well as a student.

    Since teachers evaluations are “very” important for admission committee while evaluating an application, who should write the recommendations for this young bright brother of mine?

  34. Dancer says:


    Is MIT receptive to dance supplements?

    Thank you!

  35. Matt '00 says:

    @Neutron105: It sounds like your O Level physics teacher will be fine. For the supplemental recommendation, feel free to send it along with everything else or send it separately, but either way be sure to include the Supplemental Document Cover Sheet.

    1. Ethnicity is only for US citizens & permanent residents.
    2. Yes, we will want transcripts of 10th standard and 12th standard.
    3. Ignore the GPA question.

    @Kristin: We’ll want to see some academic recommendations (from HS unless you’ve had academic experiences in the meantime) as well as recommendations that are current (so, if we get only HS academic recommendations, supplement that with some letter from people who have worked with you recently). How’s that sound?

  36. Tea says:

    What if you’re a brilliant student but all your teachers hate you? Letters of recommendation are so biased. They should ban those all together.