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How to Decode your College Recommendation from you Guidance Counselor

Understanding the role of guidance counselors in writing college recommendations is crucial for students who are applying to colleges. Guidance counselors are required to write recommendation letters that provide insight into a student's academic and personal strengths, interests, and achievements as an overview of your time in high school. But did you know that your guidance counselor is also required to rate you in comparison to your classmates in five areas? These ratings include academic achievement, extracurricular activities, character, overall potential for success in college and academic rigor. Your counselor can rate you on the first four as below average, average, good, very good, excellent (tope 10%), outstanding (top 5%) or one of the top few encountered in their career. Your academic rigor is evaluated on a scale from less than demanding to the most demanding offered in your high school. These ratings, along with your counselor’s letter of recommendation give admissions a sense of how you rank among your high school classmates from an unbiased source.

Of the colleges that request letters of recommendation, many consider them to be of "considerable importance" or "moderate importance" in making admissions decisions. This information provides valuable context to admissions to show how you took advantage of your high schools offerings and how you compare to your classmates.

Decoding The Five Areas of Rating in College Recommendation Letters by Guidance Counselors

The ratings and what it means to you as a college applicant can be difficult to decipher. The first area is academic achievement, which takes into account your grades while in high school. However, because the question asks your counselor to compare you to other students in your class, it is also an academic ranking question. If your counselor rates you as excellent (top 10%) or outstanding (top 5%), the college will have a good understanding of where you fall in your class even if your high school does not provide a class rank.

The second is rating your extracurricular activities as compared to your peers. Colleges like applicants who engage in their high school and community because it shows them how you may take advantage of opportunities in college, take on leadership roles and serve our campus and surrounding community. The third area is character and personal traits which evaluate integrity, responsibility, self-confidence, initiative, etc. The fourth rating is your overall potential as a college student in comparison to that of your classmates. This is asking the counselor to gauge your promise and potential as a college student compared to your classmates. This would consider your academic and personal maturity and growth throughout high school. The fifth and final area is rating the academic rigor of your courses throughout high school. Colleges want to know that you took advantage of college preparatory courses and continued to challenge yourself academically throughout high school.

Understanding these areas can help students better interpret their recommendation letters and give them insight into what colleges are looking for in an applicant.

How To Ensure a Strong College Recommendation Letter from Your Guidance Counselor

When it comes to college applications, a strong recommendation letter from your guidance counselor can make a significant impact on your admission chances. To ensure that you receive the best possible recommendation letter, there are certain steps you can take. First, build a positive relationship with your guidance counselor by attending meetings regularly and being respectful towards them. This helps them understand your personality and academic strengths better. It is important to connect with your guidance counselor regularly, starting with your freshman year.

Secondly, provide them with relevant information about your achievements, extracurricular activities, and interests that can help them write a personalized letter for you. Additionally, be sure to give them ample time to write the letter and provide any necessary forms or instructions required for the application process. Lastly, it's important to follow up with your guidance counselor and thank them for their efforts in writing the recommendation letter which can go a long way in maintaining a good relationship with them.


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