Your high school counselor has a vested interest in assisting you during the college application process. One of the ways they support you is by writing a letter of recommendation about you to colleges. So how do they know what to write?
Apart from meeting with you, guidance counselors use your responses to the “ Senior Survey” to understand your goals and strengths, and will pass their insights on to the colleges that are considering your application. An Assistant Director of Admission at Chapman University says “High school counselors are our partners. They provide valuable information about our applicants and we trust them to be honest and forthright with us. Their letter is often the most important letter we read in a file.”
Just like your high school counselor provides accurate information to college admissions offices, you should be honest and thoughtful in your responses. Stay positive, even when asked about what you did not like, or what your weaknesses are. If you’ve faced challenges, talk about them! You can downplay issues to an extent, but not to the point that you’re glossing over something serious.
You should also know that your high school counselor is quite busy. It’s not uncommon for a counselor to use quotes from your answers to the survey verbatim when writing your recommendation letter. That is why it’s important to make this a priority and put forth the effort to provide excellent responses.
Your school may have different questions, but this gives you an outline for answers. Put effort and thought into answering them!
1. What are your plans for next year? Be specific! Name colleges you are interested in, potential majors, as well as possible graduate school and career ideas.
2. Which courses at our school have you enjoyed the most and why? 2 – 3 short strong sentences.
3. Which courses at this school have you enjoyed the least and why? 1 sentence and do not bash the teacher, nicely explain why.
4. Is your high school record an accurate measure of your ability and potential? If not, why not? This takes introspection and is worth thinking through and answering intelligently.
5. Have you participated in any summer programs, work or study opportunities that have been of significant importance to you? Please describe. 3 – 5 sentences.
6. What do you believe are your greatest strengths and your greatest weaknesses? Explain. Please list one small minor weakness and do not go into a lot detail. If you can show how you are addressing it, even better.
7. List 5 adjectives that describe you and explain. You can use the personality profile that we did to find these adjectives.
8. What do you plan to study in college and why? (If you haven’t decided on a particular major or concentration, what academic area(s) interest you?)
9. What is your favorite thing to do that you don’t think I know about?
10. What has been your most memorable positive experience at this school? Or what accomplishment are you most proud of and why? Please describe.
11. List all extracurricular activities, including sports, clubs and community organizations. Include years of participation. Please give them a copy of the activities sheet or resume if you have it done.
12. Is there anything else you think is important for us to know as we develop your letter of recommendation? Here you can thank them for their support, or tell them how you have matured this year.
Feel free to send me this document to me, or show it to your parents for a quality assurance before you submit it to your high school guidance counselor.