Cornell School of Engineering - no math teacher recommendation?

DD is interested in Cornell’s School of Engineering but couldn’t get a recommendation letter from her math teacher. Teacher said he has too many requests and can’t take up another one.

I know the requirement website says 2 teachers recomm and one must be from math teacher (pre-cal or cal). Are there exceptions to this rule? Would they reject you solely for not submitting this? DD took AP Calc AB this past year and got an A.

Could she ask her pre-calc teacher from sophomore year?

I think there has to be more to the story. Recs are due when? Around the 1st of the year? It’s July - and this teacher is already overbooked? Even Early Decision leaves many months.

This sounds like a polite “I won’t recommend you”. Is that possible? If so, do you know why?

Not sure about that. In our HS most students line up their recommenders in the early spring. A number of teachers who are popular for students to request LORs from either set a date students must request a LOR by or will only write a certain number of LORs per year (first come first serve).

I would do anything possible to get a math LOR since it is specifically required by a highly competitive school. The two things the OP’s D can do is: 1) ask the calc teacher again and let him/her know that a math teacher LOR is specifically required by a college - and if that doesn’t work 2) ask the sophomore year pre-calc teacher for a LOR.


This still strikes me as very odd. “My students, I only have time to recommend half of you. And it won’t be the best half. It will be the first half to ask.”

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Thanks all for the replies. Not sure if DD can ask her pre-cal teacher since teachers are pretty much in hiatus during summer.

I guess either the teacher is lazy or overwhelmed with requests to write LORs. I would give him some slack and say it’s the latter, but the same thing happened to my DS 3 years ago when he was going through the same process (different teacher though). I know teachers’ time and resources are limited, but students’ (academic) lives are literally at stake here. Oh well…we’ll see what trick my DD can pull.


If the teacher has classes full of students applying to colleges that want recommendations, then it is easy to see that teacher being overloaded with recommendation requests and having to ration recommendations. Unfortunately, that means that some of the students are unable to get recommendations from that teacher.

Recommendation rationing is certainly not the only thing that can keep a student out of Cornell, or otherwise affect the student’s academic future.

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It is absolutely the case with some teachers in our HS. My S was certain to ask one of his teachers before her deadline. Some popular teachers get so overwhelmed with requests that they feel they cannot do a good job writing LORs for everyone who asks. Preparing thoughtful LORs is a time consuming task that teachers do not get paid extra for. I DO belive that writing LORs is part of the job but the work shouldn’t have to fall on a few.

I did recommend that the OP let the math teacher know that a math LOR is specifically requires for a program and perhaps the teacher will make an exception.

My D’s HS GC told students to identify the teachers they wanted for recommendations and to ask early in the second semester of junior year. Teachers definitely turned down some students towards the end of the year if they felt like they had too many to do effectively.

OP - Can your D ask the GC to intervene in this case since Cornell is requiring a math teacher LOR?


Something else to consider: if the teacher is overloaded with recommendations, will they be able and willing to write a good recommendation, as opposed to the minimal checkboxing, especially if the OP’s student’s recommendation is “forced” upon them?

I thought of that but the teacher likely would not be too thrilled about this roundabout way to ask and it could (?) impact the quality of the LOR.

Recommendations for college will, in practice, tend to be concentrated on teachers of courses that academically stronger college bound juniors take, especially if colleges that require recommendations are popular at the high school.

So if calculus in 11th grade is popular at the high school, and colleges that require recommendations are popular among academically ambitious students (who are presumed to be most of the population in a +2 math track course), then it is almost certain that the teacher will be asked for recommendations by most of the students in that class.


But it’s July!

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I meant the end of the school year. At D’s HS the end of junior year was the absolute cut off to request the LOR.


That’s pretty amazing: 7 months notice is a lot. I write letters, and 4 weeks is the minimum, and 8 is preferred. 30 seems…like a lot.

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Our school had a mid-May deadline. Essentially, a month before junior year ends.


Teachers were supposed to have their LORs done and to the guidance office when the common app opened in August.

Schools obviously have wide variations! Hopefully that’s communicated to the students.

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Can we return focus to the student please?

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Is your D applying to Cornell ED or RD?

Seems like there are 3 options:

-ask the GC to intervene to help get a LoR from the jr yr Calc AB teacher

-ask the soph year math teacher as soon as teachers are back at school

-build as strong a relationship with the senior math teacher (what class is that?) in the first month or two of Fall semester and ask for a LoR (If applying RD that would give more time).

-I guess there’s technically a 4th option…go back to the AB teacher (without GC pressure/influence), say Cornell requires a math teacher LoR, and hope the teacher changes their mind.


According to College and School Admissions Requirements | Undergraduate Admissions , Cornell CoE says “At least one of the two teacher recommendations must be from a math teacher. You are strongly encouraged to submit a math teacher recommendation from a pre-calculus or calculus teacher who has taught you in grade 11 or 12 (or equivalent years).”

So, before considering the quality of the recommendations, either the 11th grade calculus AB teacher, or the 12th grade math teacher if taking calculus BC / 2 in 12th grade is what Cornell prefers, with the 10th grade precalculus teacher being a less desirable recommender from Cornell’s point of view (and the 9th grade math teacher would be an even less desirable recommended from Cornell’s point of view).

If none of these teachers is willing to write the recommendation (or the recommendation quality is not expected to be good, due to the teacher having too many to write or being grumpy over a late request), then the only option is not to apply to Cornell CoE.