Among the many pieces of a college application is the Counselor Recommendation. While your transcripts and essays are among the most important parts of the application, what your counselor shares in their recommendation plays a significant role in putting your high school performance, activities, and experiences into perspective.
Follow these steps to ensure you make the most of your Counselor's Recommendation.
What is the Purpose of a Counselor Recommendation?
The first thing to know is that a counselor recommendation supports your overall application. The primary role of a Counselor Recommendation provides an overall perspective on your experience, leadership, and life in and out of the classroom.
To start, the recommendation should highlight your academic performance. In particular, the counselor recommendation can address course selection details, grade trends, and other relevant academic information that isn’t readily apparent from your transcript.
After academics, a strong counselor recommendation highlights your main activities, leadership experience, and the role they play in your life. But this isn’t meant to be a list of activities. Most college applications ask applicants to list their activities, so your counselor doesn’t have to write them all out. Instead, your counselor should focus on the most important and unique experiences and leadership abilities to highlight your best qualities.
For some students who have had challenging experiences inside or outside of school, a counselor recommendation can highlight the obstacles you’ve faced, especially if those experiences impacted your grades or well-being. But talk this over with your family and counselor to make sure that you’re not oversharing.
While most college admission websites don’t go into detail, Georgia Tech explains what they broadly look for in recommendations.
Steps To Asking For a Counselor Recommendation
The best time to ask for a recommendation is the Spring of your Junior year. This gives you time to meet with your counselor a few times so they can get to know you. Even though it may be easier to send your counselor an email, it’s important to show maturity and preparedness, so meet with your counselor in person.
Before asking for a recommendation, create a resume or ‘brag sheet’ detailing your experiences in and out of school, work experience, leadership, hobbies and other helpful information. You can also list your intended major or areas of academic interest. The more detail and description you give your counselor helps them write a better recommendation about you.
Also print a copy of your high school transcript listing your grades and senior courses. This helps your counselor to address your academic experience. Be prepared to talk about your course selection, academic interests, and any information about a low grade or a tough semester. Your counselor can put that information in their letter to provide additional context.
Follow your school’s policy to schedule a meeting with your counselor. Give yourself enough time to speak with your counselor in person. This lets you share more about who you are and what your interests are, greatly helping your counselor write a more personalized recommendation.
2. In the Meeting
Some students will know their counselor very well and the meeting will serve to help highlight any additional information or leadership roles that have not been shared.
Other students may not know their counselor. If this applies to you, be sure to highlight your main activities and interests in and out of school. The way you talk about your main interests will let your counselor get to know you a bit better, making for a stronger recommendation.
Be sure to inform your counselor of your first application deadline. For many students applying Early Action or Early Decision the deadline is November 1st, but check your college list to be sure. You never want to rush your counselor, so be sure to give them plenty of time to write a strong recommendation.
It takes time and multiple drafts to write strong recommendations, so writing a thank you note is a great way to show gratitude.
Also, as you learn of your admission decisions, let your counselor know where you were admitted and what college you selected to attend. Counselors work in education because they care about student success, so they really care about your post-college decisions.
Below are a few FAQs about Counselor Recommendations
Does every college require a counselor recommendation?
No, not all colleges require counselor recommendations, but it’s still a smart idea to ask your counselor for a letter because most students apply to at least one college that requires a Counselor Recommendation
For example, the University of California states the following
UC does not require (nor read) letters of recommendation at the time of application. A campus may ask for them later as part of a supplemental review, so be sure to check your email.
So does the University of Illinois
No, we don’t accept letters of recommendation or other unsolicited materials.
What if my counselor can’t write a letter of recommendation?
At some larger high schools, there are too many students and too few counselors so every student cannot receive a counselor recommendation. This is ok and colleges are aware of this issue. You should contact your colleges, share that you cannot receive a counselor recommendation. They will work with you regarding this issue.
I’m a freshman or sophomore, what should I be doing?
If you’re a 9th or 10th grader, see your counselor once a quarter to let them get to know you. You can share information about your activities, leadership, and other interests. This will greatly help your counselor know you for multiple years and will make it easier for your counselor to write a strong recommendation.
If you’re looking for additional help with recommendations or any other college-related questions, contact Solomon Admissions today!