You’re back in school, heading into your final year. Your courses are challenging, your extracurricular leadership roles are demanding, AND you will need to move forward every week on your college applications! Where to start, your first days back in school?
In addition to grades, personal statements, and activities, colleges also want to know what other people have to say about you. Most will require a ‘School Report’, created by your school counselor or administrator, and one or two Letters of Recommendation from teachers. Recommendations matter . . . a lot! Here are some tasks you need to set in motion as soon as possible.
Ask one or two teachers to write the Teacher Recommendations to be sent to your colleges.
Carefully consider which teachers to ask and consult your college counselor and parents for their input. They must be teachers of major subjects (math, science, history, English, languages), and have taught you in your Junior (11th grade/Premiere/Lower 6th) year, or be currently teaching you, as a Senior. (But last year’s teachers will know you best.) Moreover, they need not only to know you as a student in their classes, but they must also have the interest and willingness to support you by writing a great recommendation that will ‘market’ you well to colleges and universities.
Approach those teachers right away! You want thoughtful, substantive letters, and those cannot be done overnight. Moreover, popular teachers may limit the number of students whose recommendations they can write each year.
Schedule a meeting with these teachers 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. Teachers, 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 copy of your transcript for the past three years, as well as your standardized test scores.
3) Copies of papers in which the teacher made interesting or positive comments on your work — take these along to help jog his/her memory. Admission officers find specific examples of impressive insights, writings or research, useful.
4) A list of colleges to which you are considering applying (you can change it later!).
5) Note any special reasons and programs for applying to specific schools.
Once a teacher has agreed to support you by writing a Recommendation, you need to get 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 teacher with the required Recommendation form. Note: each teacher’s recommendation can be used for all your Common App colleges, so each teacher needs to write only one Recommendation.
Discuss with your Counselor how to submit Recommendations to colleges and universities that don’t take the Common Application, and how to assign recommendations from different teachers for different colleges.
The college admission process allows you to gain in self-knowledge and new insight into how people view you. But don’t leave people’s perceptions of who you are and what you are capable of achieving to chance! Instead, help shape that impression with your thoughtfulness, organization, and courtesy. DO IT NOW!