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Preparing for College


Recommendations in support of your application are usually expected by colleges. It is your obligation to arrange for them to be sent to the schools to which you are applying. The usual sources for recommendations are current or former teachers. The expectation is to receive an evaluation of your academic skills in the teacher's subject and an assessment of your level of maturity as well as other personal assets. The college will commonly ask the applicant to arrange that specific recommendation forms be given to the individuals to be completed.

You need to take care when selecting teachers to give recommendation forms to be completed on your behalf. You should realize that the comments provided should enhance the impression generated by your transcript and related data. This can be the case if the individuals writing on your behalf hold you in high regard. There are situations that provide teachers at a large school with an opportunity to get to know their students better, such as when you are a member of a small class where individual student interaction with the instructor is high, if more than one course has been or is being taken with the teacher, or if the teacher also serves as a coach in some area and knows you also in this context. All of the aforementioned assume that you have performed well in courses whose instructors are writing your recommendation.

As to the teachers' subject, what is expected is a recommendation from one (or two) from the traditional courses in the social or physical sciences. Where you have special interests that you wish to pursue at a college, a solid letter from a teacher in the same field may well serve to strengthen your admission chances. Other considerations in choosing a subject are how recently the course was completed. The more recent, the more valuable will be the teacher's opinion of you. Finally, a recommendation from an instructor of an advanced course will surely be more impressive and indicate effectively your intellectual assets in that field.

A potentially good source for a recommendation is a guidance counselor who knows you well. This means that he or she has had contact with you over an extended length of time. Such individuals should be able to write in depth about your abilities and your academic progress and personnel growth over the years.

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