Within your first two weeks back at school, be sure to set up a meeting with your high school college counselor or school administrator to discuss the School’s Report and the Counselor’s Recommendation that are part of the Common Application. Your Counselor is the person who creates your School Report, which is required by the Common Application and by most other colleges that do not use the CA. The School Report accompanies your School Transcript (your grades for the past 3 years) and, hopefully, a School Profile (brief description of your school).
Ideally, your Counselor will also write a separate, personal Counselor’s Recommendation, if s/he has time. In the best of all possible worlds, s/he will meet with your teachers and/or read your former teachers’ comments so as to gather information about you and to represent your strengths. Hopefully also, your Counselor has gotten to know you throughout your past three years at school (or two, or one!). If, however, your school counselor handles all the paperwork for more than 50 seniors (and yes, at some public schools, even good ones, the counselor load can be over 400 students, across all years!), you may be out of luck in being able to provide an actual Counselor’s Recommendation as well as the basic School Report.
This is the first year that the Counselor’s Recommendation has been separated from the School Report, and is not requested or expected by over 200 colleges and universities. Please see this excellent article by Nancy Griesemer (“Important changes to the Common App school counselor recommendation system“) so you can better understand the changes in this year’s Common Application’s School Report and Counselor’s Recommendation.
Schedule a meeting with your counselor in the first week or two of school, and do not go empty-handed! Bring along the following:
1) A resume, or a list of your extra curricular and personal activities during the past three years. School counselors, like admission officers, value humility and appreciate honesty, but they need to know what you have done and achieved outside of their classrooms, beyond their experience of you.
- Include ways you have contributed to the school in general, or to your larger community, and significant summer activities.
- You can mention particular skills or personal strengths, and let the recommenders know what areas of study interest you.
- Any career goals?
2) A list of colleges to which you are considering applying (you can change it later!).
3) Note any special reasons and programs for applying to specific schools.
Ask your counselor for his or her email address. You will then enter that contact information into your Common Application in the first college on your list. Click the ‘assign’ button, and the Common App will email your counselor with the required School Report form.
International students, you need to talk with the head of school, dean, or whatever administrator will prepare the School Report for you (check out the form for this recommendation in the Common Application). If that person knows you personally or is willing to talk with teachers about your contribution to the school, then do request a Counselor’s Recommendation, also. This ‘counselor’/ administrator is a vital team member who needs to be brought up to date with your college planning ideas, testing plan and scores. It’s important to have a very good relationship with your counselor so that person can represent you to best advantage. The School Report is very significant, and a Counselor’s Recommendation can be the most important Recommendation you’ll receive!
Written by Joyce Reed
(c) College Goals LLC 2015