5 Creative Ways to Thank Your High School Teacher for Giving You a Recommendation

It’s that time of the year again—no, not the holidays or New Year's, but the end of a tiring and stressful college application season. You’re almost done wrapping up college essays and you’ve turned in most of your materials, but there are a couple things left on your to-do list, including thanking teachers for the time they put into your recommendation letters. You definitely don’t want to go for a bland thank-you note; make sure they get the most appreciation possible! If you’re still unsure on how to thank them, below are some ideas to get you started.

1. Write a handwritten thank-you note

Instead of typing up a formal, traditional letter, why not take the time to whip out the colored pens and cardstock for a thoughtful handwritten letter? According to Kevin McMullin, author of If the U Fits: Expert Advice on Finding the Right College and Getting Accepted, it’s important to put effort into the thank-you letter as it recognizes that they did a big favor for you.

“Don't get me wrong, sending any kind of thank-you note is better than sending nothing at all,” McMullin told Collegewise. “But if someone deserves to be thanked, don't they deserve to be thanked well? Put some effort into your thank-you note. Show the person that you recognize the fact they did a favor for you, that you sincerely appreciate the effort made on your behalf. Write it on stationary (not over email). Use capitals and punctuation (seriously, use capitals and punctuation).”

Like McMullin explains, putting in effort means going beyond an email by writing your thanks down IRL and being sincere with your words. Make sure to mention specific things like how you totally appreciate your English teacher’s encouraging feedback on those essays, or how you’re going to major in history because you had so much fun in their class. That can really show you appreciate them in an unforgettable way!

2. Record a thank-you video

Another way to say thank you is by recording a sweet video that shows your teacher how much you appreciate their recommendation. You can even incorporate short messages from your family—and if you’re already in college, include some short clips of your college life from the English class that totally made you think of your teacher’s quirky essay prompts or the modern art exhibit that you know your art history teacher would go crazy for. All in all, being specific about how their letter and guidance really aided you in the application process will be sure to bring a smile to their face.

3. Gift them something connected to a personal interest

FYI: Gifts can be creative and memorable without breaking the bank. Sadhvi Mathur, an expert contributor at CollegeVine, explained on the CollegeVine blog that knowing little nuances about your teacher can go a long way when it comes to gifting and that the goal is to be small, but personal and perhaps related to their interests, passions, hobbies or obsessions. While you’re at it, you can even consider asking if you can help decorate the classroom. From buying some of those posters of their favorite musical artist, or even arranging some of their favorite flowers, just the simple act of striving to make their day or classroom more inviting can put a smile on their face!

Anna, a student at a the University of California, says, "One of my teachers really appreciated it when I bought my Spanish teachers some flowers to make her day. Even though it didn't cost much, I could tell that she really loved using the flowers to decorate her desk!"

And if you know that your English teacher is obsessed with King Lear, try getting them a coffee mug with a Shakespeare quote on it. Or if they’re a total caffeine junkie, why not get them a gift card for the local coffee shop? You can even try getting a teacher memorabilia from the university you’re attending, such as a banner or poster to show that the work they put into writing your recommendation was well worth it!

Related: 10 Easy Homemade DIY Holiday Gifts

4. Offer to help out in the classroom

With your teacher’s hectic schedule, they may find themselves running short on time for important tasks. So, why not take a portion out of your day to repay them for the time they spent writing your recommendation letters?

And if you’re worried about price, don’t fret! Instead, try paying close attention to some small details! Sally Rubenstone, a former Smith College admissions counselor, told College Confidential that as a former teacher the only gifts she truly remembered were tailored to her, like some heavy duty gummy gunk that was a much better alternative than the masking tape she used to use. So instead of spending too much money on pricey gifts, try taking the time to see what your teacher might need some help on! For example, if you know your teacher could really use a pick-me-up, gather a group of friends to help arrange multi-colored Post-It notes on their desk to show your gratitude for their recommendation letter. Leaving them a simple note of encouragement or a compliment about how their positive attitude can really go a long way.

Besides giving your teacher small gifts to improve the classroom, consider doing tasks that take a small amount of work off their plate. Offer to help clean the whiteboards or organize papers during the break times. Even if it doesn't take much time, rest assured that they’ll definitely be able to appreciate the effort you put into helping them!

Related: Here's How Much Teacher Recommendations Actually Matter to Colleges

5. Make them an original playlist

If you know they love music, why not take some time to help pick out an awesome playlist to thank them for all the help in getting to college? You can try throwing in some songs that can show your gratitude, from old throwbacks like “Kind & Generous” by Natalie Merchant, or some songs you know they’ll love, be it classical music or the soundtrack to the Broadway musical they’ve been raving about all semester. Or maybe try returning a favor to that high school teacher that always played music in the classroom by picking out some classic hits! It may sound cliché, but little nods to their interests not only show that you pay attention to them, but that you really appreciate what they’ve done for you, not just as a teacher but as a mentor!

All in all, there are endless ways to thank your teacher, be it a care-kit filled with spa goodies, or leaving them a surprise vanilla latte you know they’ll love. Plus, you don’t always have to spend money, because after all, what matters most is that you’re able to show the deepest appreciation for being an awesome source of guidance during your college application journey.