While applying to colleges in the States, there are certain documents needed to complete your application. Documents like your grades in high school, your financial status, letters of recommendations, etc. Letters of recommendation give the admissions officer proof of your academic rigor. It is sort of like a testimony by your teachers and counsellors about how you are in a classroom.
The recommendations that accompany your application are incredibly important and informative. An average student in the 80th percentile with truly outstanding recommendations may be preferable to an outstanding student in the 99th percentile whose teachers are not able to come up with more original adjectives than “hardworking” and “diligent”.
Here are some pointers for communicating with both your school counselor and teachers when requesting a recommendation.
Tips for Communicating with your Counselor:
- Set up a meeting (or several meetings) to introduce yourself.
- Prepare for the meeting with a clear list of questions.
- Complete your resume and leave it with your counselor so that he/she has this information in writing.
- Provide your counselor with written notes about specific things that make you a unique applicant.
- Discuss any relevant mitigating circumstances that have affected your academics.
- Treat your counselor as if he/she is doing you a favor by going to bat for you.
Tips for Communicating with your Teachers About Recommendations:
- Ask at least four weeks in advance of the deadline.
- Provide your teacher with a full list of colleges to which you are applying and the deadlines for recommendation letters.
- Communicate the specific ways that you contributed to the class.
- Share the topics you learned that you genuinely enjoyed in the teacher’s class. (If you did outside work that was inspired by the class, be sure to mention that.)
Following these steps will lead to good recommendations which will impress the admissions officer. As discussed before, our main aim is to create a good impression and stand out through our application. Since, the applicant is going to be competing directly with other applicants from his/her region/high school, standing out is very important. Excellent letters of recommendation will help us achieve this goal.