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The World Explained In Plain English.
The World Explained In Plain English.
Recommendation Letter Tips

Recommendation Letter Tips

The recommendations that accompany your application are incredibly important and informative. A "B" student with truly outstanding recommendations may be preferable to an "A" student whose teachers can't be bothered to come up with more original adjectives than “hardworking” and “diligent.” Even though you can't write your own recommendations, you can advocate for yourself and provide your recommender with relevant information that will enable them to write a better letter on your behalf.

You Do Not Want A Recommendation Letter Like This:
You Do Not Want A Recommendation Letter Like This

Almost every college requires a guidance counselor's recommendation letter. The form that accompanies the letter on the Common Application is pretty simple. The first page asks your guidance counselor for some basic contact information and includes a few lines where they will list your senior year courses. The second page asks guidance counselors to provide details about your academic record, such as GPA and class rank. Your guidance counselor will then attach a letter of recommendation on your behalf.

Because many high schools have such high student-counselor ratios, it is not uncommon for counselors to know very little about the students they are asked to write the recommendation letter for. Some schools try to solve this problem by asking teachers to provide a short comment on students' performance so that guidance counselors can incorporate these comments into their letters.

The first thing to do is to set up a meeting with your guidance counselor, who will have no way to get to know you if you two do not spend time together. Be sure to complete your accomplishments document and bring it to the meeting along with notes about what makes you unique or different. Have you had any obstacles, like a parent's divorce, a death in the family, or personal health problems, that have contributed to some of your lower grades? If so, you'll also want to share this with your guidance counselor. In fact, the guidance counselor letter is the ideal place to discuss these circumstances.

If your life is relatively obstacle free, you should still create a list of things that make you a great candidate for college. Are you a frequent contributor to class discussions? Do you supplement your classroom learning with visits to the museum or by working on specific causes or movements? What can you give to a college if accepted? How will you take advantage of this opportunity? A strong guidance counselor recommendation letter addresses these types of questions.

When dealing with your guidance counselors, a good rule of thumb is to treat them like they are doing you a favor because they are. Yes, it is technically their job to write you a letter of recommendation, but it is not necessarily their job to write you a great, detailed recommendation letter. Be respectful of their time, come prepared to meetings, and bring a copy of your accomplishments doc and notes about what makes you unique so that they have something in writing. Do not forget to thank them for taking the time to help you get into the college of your dreams.

Tips For Communicating With Your Guidance Counselor

Tips For communicating With Your Guidance Counselor

  • Set up a meeting (or several meetings) to introduce yourself.
  • Prepare for the meeting with a clear list of questions.
  • Complete your accomplishments list in advance and leave it with your counselor so that they have the information in writing.
  • Provide your counselor with notes about the specific things that make you a unique applicant. These will help your guidance counselor write a more detailed recommendation letter.
  • Discuss any relevant circumstances that may have affected your grades.
  • If you have a first-choice school, share this with your counselor, she may want to note this in the recommendation letter.
  • Treat your counselor as if they are doing you a favor.
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