Getting the Best Recommendations for Your College Apps

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”. Below are some tips from Dr. Joie Jager-Hyman's book, B+ Grades, A+ College Application, 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 a resume and leave it with your counselor so that 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 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.)