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Application Tips

How to Choose Your References

Before your interview with Teach For America, read our tips on completing the Recommenders & Reference List.

By The TFA Editorial Team

February 6, 2017

If you’ve been invited to an interview with Teach For America, you’ll need to complete the Recommenders & Reference List. This requires you to submit the contact information for two recommenders and one reference.

Your two recommenders will receive a unique web link, via email, from TFA’s Admissions team asking them to complete an Online Recommendation Form. Your reference may or may not be called.

Here are a few tips to help select your recommenders and reference, and the difference between the two.

Your Recommenders

  • Your two recommenders should be people who can speak to different aspects of what you’ve done or accomplished. Ideally, they will have supervised your work or have been in a position of authority to guide or evaluate your work within the past 3-5 years.
  • If you’re a student, we advocate choosing recommenders from different areas of your college experience. 
    • For instance, the first recommender could be from an academic setting (professor, thesis advisor, independent research advisor, academic advisor), while the second recommender could be from a job or extracurricular activity (coach, advisor, formal supervisor, head of program, department leader).
  • If you’re a professional, we suggest choosing your current manager as a first recommender, if possible. That description could also suit a supervisor, internship coordinator, or mentor, depending on your job.
    • If that’s not feasible, then you might want to select a relatively recent manager as a recommender.
  • For your second recommender, you might want to select a previous manager from the same organization, a manager from another organization, or someone from one of the other aforementioned categories (internship coordinator, mentor).
  • If you work in a school, we suggest asking a principal or assistant principal who is familiar with your work to be one of your two recommenders.
  • Recommenders should be comfortable filling out the Online Recommendation Form because the application doesn’t accept traditional letters of recommendation.
  • Friends, family members, family friends, and colleagues/peers are not advised to be listed as recommenders.

Your Reference

  • Your reference should also be someone who knows your work well. It can fall into one of the categories listed above for recommenders, but might not be your most recent relationship.

    • For example, if you list your current supervisor as your recommender, then a former supervisor who can give additional context about your work could be a valuable reference.
  • We suggest that you avoid listing one of your recommenders as a reference. We’re hoping to hear from three different people. However, if you’re unable to provide three individuals, you can list one of your recommenders as a reference.

Have additional questions about your Teach For America application? Visit our Application and Interview Tips page.