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How to Get Started with the College Application Process

college applicationHave you thought about starting your college applications this fall? If so, you should spend some time considering which teachers you want to write your college recommendation.

So much of the college applications process is based on scores, grades, and other ways of ranking students numerically. Recommendations, along with the personal statement and any supplemental essays, are an opportunity to highlight a student’s unique qualities that may not be as readily apparent from a transcript. Leadership, empathy, persistence? Those are traits a teacher recommendation can highlight to give admissions counselors a fuller picture of who you are not only as a student, but also as a person.

Think about which teachers know you best and who can write eloquently about your strengths and your development over the course of high school. If you want to study economics and have taken an economics class in high school, get that teacher to vouch for your passion and talent for the subject. The same goes for chemistry, history, film, or any other topic. English teachers tend to get favored for college recommendations because they write well, but if English isn’t your best subject, consider a teacher who can speak to your abilities in other classes.

A teacher who coaches a sport you play might be a good choice. That teacher may get to see another side of you outside of the classroom, and involvement in team athletics demonstrates a great deal of dedication and perseverance. There are many ways to contribute to a school’s community and culture, and colleges are looking for students who will do more than just excel academically. Find someone who can speak to your character as a leader and as a committed and enthusiastic member of your student body.

If you have a favorite teacher, chances are other kids love that teacher, too. In the fall, popular teachers will be inundated with recommendation requests and likely won’t be able to say yes to everyone. Beat the rush and make asking them for a recommendation your top priority. Supply them with a copy of your resume or a summary of your course load. They may be unaware of how much work you’ve put into other classes and can include that in discussing your unique qualifications and potential for success in college. If you have specific achievements you’d like them to highlight, make sure your recommenders are aware of them before they write the recommendation. Make it as easy as possible for them without telling them exactly what to write. 

And be sure to thank them for the time and energy they spent extolling your virtues for the college admissions boards. A nice thank you card or even a small gift (though it is not necessary) would be a great way to show your appreciation for their support of your college admissions goals.

Remember to take the extra time to think about who would be able to give a true sense of you as a student and as a potential member of a college community. Be ready to seek that person out in the fall and let them know why you are choosing them.

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