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Letters of Recommendation

Getting great letters of recommendation in the first few months of senior year requires more than hard work in classes.  Teachers and guidance counselors can’t write effective letters of recommendation, if they don’t know enough about the student.  So the students need to keep an updated resume they can hand to their recommenders that lists their accomplishments, including activities and off-campus jobs.

Making Connections at School:

The Well-Rounded Student
Admissions Officers are looking for “well-rounded” students: people who do well in course work and show leadership, organizational skills and dedication to their communities. Here are some of the qualities your extracurricular activities can demonstrate to an admissions officer:

  •     What your non-academic interests are
  •     Whether you can manage your time and priorities
  •     Whether you can maintain a long-term commitment
  •     What diversity you'd bring to the student body
  •     How you've made a meaningful contribution to something

Aside from information reported on admissions and scholarship applications, admissions officers rely on recommenders to describe a student’s interest and dedication to both their academic and extracurricular activities.
Making the Connection with Potential Recommenders

Many people who know a student well will be able to write effective letters of recommendation that can inform admissions officers of the quality of the applicant, but high school teachers and counselors are usually required to write about their students. It is in the student’s best interest to spend some time and energy connecting with his or her guidance counselor.

  •     Counselors: are a student’s best friend and most useful allies in the admissions process.
  •     Teachers: spend the most time with students. They can speak to a student’s dedication to their work, abilities, organizational skills, and attitude.
  •     Activity sponsors: contacts in and out of school can address a student’s motivation and enthusiasm.

Picking activities

  •     Shop around; try new things in your freshman year.
  •     Pick one or two activities you really like. Quality is more important than quantity.
  •     Remember your studies are the priority.
  •     Sophomore year, develop your talents in your chosen activities.
  •     Shoot for leadership positions in your junior and senior years.
  •     Make alliances that will allow sponsors to write informed letters.

There are many activities available for students to demonstrate their abilities outside of the classroom:

  •     School-Based Activities
  •     Community Service
  •     Faith-Based Activities
  •     Work Experience

School-Based Activities are activities that are offered by the school, including athletics, clubs, band, and student government. Community Service can be done through school service organizations as well as through community based organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or food banks and soup kitchens. Faith-Based Activities are activities that are sponsored by religious groups. Work Experience can come in many forms: paid or volunteer, after-school or summer. Sometimes these jobs are called internships. Part-time jobs can help students identify career interests and goals, gain work experience, and apply classroom learning to the real world. It is also a great way to earn money for college.


Internships can be paid or volunteer. They are work experiences in particular fields that give students the opportunity to try a career. Students can ask to “shadow” someone at his or her job to help determine if this is a career interest.

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