Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - March/April 2013 - (Page 43)
planning ahead for college
be ready by building relationships
even if it will be several years before you
apply to college, you may already be
prepping for your sats, focusing on your
extracurricular activities, and worrying about
your grades. these are all important as you
build a high school record that documents
your readiness to succeed in college. But
are you also laying the groundwork for the
recommendations you will need?
most students don’t think about them until
the forms are actually in their hands and they
must ask people to write recommendations.
But, in fact, you should be building relationships with your counselor and teachers so that
they will know you well enough to be able to
write the kind of recommendations that will
help you stand out in a selective applicant pool.
What Makes a
first and foremost, a recommendation must
add information that is not already apparent
from the rest of your application. having
a teacher simply document your good
performance in a class where you earned an
“a” doesn’t add anything since the readers
already know from your transcript that you
did well in that class.
the most effective recommendations
focus less on your past achievements and
more on how your problem-solving abilities
and personal characteristics like motivation, persistence, character, ability to work
with others, and willingness to work hard
are predictive of your potential to excel in
the future. But unless your counselor and
teachers know you fairly well, they won’t
be able to provide the insight that will help
admissions staff see you as a person and not
as numbers on a page.
Virtually every college requires a recommendation from a counselor, which can be
a challenge for students who attend large
by linda E. brody, Edd
high schools. But you can foster a relationship
by discussing your interests and seeking
advice on a fairly regular basis. demonstrate
the careful thought you are putting into the
college selection process.
You might also share your goals for the
future with your teachers, and show your
motivation for learning by seeking advice
about how to extend your learning beyond
the classroom. ask them to recommend a
summer program, to find a mentor for you,
or to help you prepare for a competition.
Classroom teachers who also support you
in another role—as an academic advisor,
advisor to a club or activity, or coach in
a sport—are well suited to evaluate your
performance across more than one setting.
however, you can keep any of your teachers
informed about any of your extracurricular
pursuits that relate to their content area.
When it’s time to Apply
Carefully check the requirements for recommendations of each college to which you are
applying, as they can vary in the number of
teachers requested, their disciplines, and
policies regarding supplemental recommendations. those that use the Common
application will ask you to use its form, while
other colleges may have their own recommendation forms or just ask for a letter.
Choose teachers who know you well. if
you have a choice, ask those who taught you
within the last two years so they can comment
on your current academic skills. if you opt to
include supplemental recommendations, be
sure they add something new to your application. mentors, coaches, music teachers, or
someone who has observed your efforts in
community service are good choices.
When you are ready to request recommendations:
• Ask well in advance of deadlines. if
you apply under early decision or early
action plans, you’ll need to ask for recommendations by the start of your senior
year, and some teachers like to write them
over the summer.
include deadlines, instructions,
and forms. some high schools require
recommendations to be sent to the
guidance office to be submitted to the
colleges with other information. if they
are to be sent directly by your teachers, provide pre-addressed stamped
envelopes or information for faxing or
Attach a brief resume as a reminder of
some of the things you have done outside
Waive your right to see the recommendations. they will be treated more
seriously by colleges if they know you
haven’t seen them.
As deadlines approach, check to be
sure your recommendations were
sent. it may be possible to check this
with the colleges; if not, politely ask your
recommenders if they sent them.
be sure to follow up with thank you
notes to everyone who recommended you.
opefully, taking the time to develop
meaningful relationships with your
counselor and teachers will lead to recommendations that will help you be admitted to
the college of your choice. But such relationships are valuable in their own right: they
can enhance your academic and personal
development throughout high school by making you feel more connected to your teachers,
to the subjects you are studying, and to the
high school environment overall.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - March/April 2013
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - March/April 2013
In My Own Words
Music to My Ears
Together as One
Circle of Inspiration
Six Strings and a Dream
In Pursuit of Joy
Jazz Studies, Improvised
Music in College
From the Great Wall to the Golden Gate
Sines and Wonders
Selected Opportunities & Resources
My Journey Through the College Admissions Process
How It Feels to Run
Off the Shelf
Exploring Career Options
One Step Ahead
Planning Ahead for College
Mark Your Calendar
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - March/April 2013