Count how many times I use some form of the word “recommend” in this blog entry!
Two teacher recommendations are requested by most colleges, in addition to one from your high school counselor. The purpose of these recommendations is to learn more about you beyond your transcript and board scores. Colleges are seeking information about what type of student you are inside and beyond the classroom. Most likely, you will not be privy to the content of these endorsements (ha! see that? I didn’t use the r-word there!) because they are sent directly to your target schools. I cannot emphasize enough what a great addition thoughtful recommendations make to your college application.
Teacher recommendations will report how you perform in the classroom, and counselor recommendations will report how you compare to your school’s student body, both academically and socially. Teachers will address such topics as your preparedness and participation in the classroom, intellectual curiosity, teamwork on group projects and passion for learning. Your counselor recommendation will address such things as course rigor, whether you chose to stretch yourself with a more difficult curricula, your relationship with faculty members and fellow students, and perhaps how you face specific challenges.
I implore you NOT to wait until fall semester of your senior year to approach your teachers, hat in hand, asking if they would agree to write your recommendations. The quality of your endorsements will be much richer if you have established a rapport with these teachers prior to senior year. Cultivate relationships with your teachers throughout your high school years. Include teachers in discussions about your summer plans, your extra-curricular activities and hobbies, and your special interests. Endeavor to make these conversations reciprocal in nature – ask your teachers about their hobbies and interests, their summer plans, etc. This way, you will build a richer relationship and your teachers will have an incentive to go above and beyond for you when recommendation time rolls around.