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What to know

While it is unwise to brag about yourself on college applications, it is totally appropriate–if not essential!–for other people to do it for you.

There are three types of letters of recommendation: 

•  The Secondary School Report completed by your high school counselor

•  Teacher Evaluation Forms completed by one or more teachers, and

•  Optional Recommendations written by others who “know and love you.”

Admissions officers pay a lot of attention to what the counselor, teachers and others say about you, so make sure you provide them everything they need to do the best job they can.

•  The people who you should ask to fill-out your applications forms and letters are those who know and like you the best.

•  Your goal is to have letters of recommendation say memorable and unique things about you.

•  Who is not a good choice for a letter of recommendation is someone who doesn’t know you well, no matter how prestigious or powerful that person is.

•  Recommendations should verify what you say about yourself in applications. 


What to know

The high school counselor

•  The high school counselor completes the Secondary School Report/Counselor form. It is your job to establish and maintain a positive relationship with that person.

•  In your relationship with the counselor, your goal is to become a welcome, friendly, familiar face so that he or she can provide colleges with the best possible view of you as a student and a person.

•  Make the counselor’s job of filling out the Secondary School Report form an easy task.

•  Counselors often make extensive use of notes and materials provided to them by students and parents.

•  It is very important that you waive your right to see application materials completed by the school counselor. To do otherwise would make college admissions people suspicious of you.

 Photocopy everything you give to your counselor and/or your teachers.

Teacher Recommenders

•  Many colleges require two teacher reference forms or letters of recommendation.

•  Choose teachers to write on your behalf who know and like you the best.

•  Make the teacher’s recommendation job easier by providing them with all the material they need, and in a timely fashion.

Other Recommenders

•  Other recommenders should also “know and love you.”

•  Provide the optional recommender with a list of colleges and their respective due dates, as well as addressed and stamped envelopes with the names and address of the colleges.

•  Also provide them with a copy of your resume and anything else that will help him/her write persuasively about you.

Special information about Letter of Recommendation Packages can be found in the Examples/Lists tab at the top, including:

√ What to provide High School Counselors

√ What to provide Teachers

√ What to provide Other Recommenders

√ Sample College List for Counselors, Teachers and Other Recommenders

√ Cover Sheet for Recommenders


What to know

sophomore and junior years
Grades 10 and 11 are when you should be developing relationships with teachers and your high school counselor.

The end of junior year is a good time to ask favorite teachers to write the teacher evaluations for your college applications. Because some teachers like to write evaluations during the summer and are often overwhelmed with student requests in the fall, it's smart to ask teachers before school is out junior year.

senior year

If you haven't asked your teachers before, now is the time to ask them about to complete the application Teacher Evaluations forms. Also touch base with your high school counselor about the School Report forms he/she will fill-in.

Provide each teacher, the high school counselor, and other recommenders with packages of recommendation materials, including your activities resume.

Contact the colleges to which you are applying early to make sure that they have received your recommendation materials from teachers, the counselor and others.

Contact all of the colleges to which you have applied to make sure they have received your recommendation materials.


When to do it

Starting your child's freshman year, make sure to attend teacher and counselor meetings, as well as school open houses. Go out of your way to develop good relationships with teachers, the counselor and other school personnel.

by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz
Excerpted from adMISSION POSSIBLE® (Sourcebooks, Inc, April 2012)

If you want to know more about this and other admissions topics, read
Getting into the Best Colleges for you
. Order it here!



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