As junior year chugs along, Recommendation Request Season draws near. This is the time of year when teachers, not typically accustomed to students seeking them out between classes, find many stopping by with growing frequency and a shy “ask” in their eye. The sought-after payoff: “Yes, I would be delighted to write a college recommendation for you.”
For students who feel confident in their classroom performance and hold rapport with their teacher, requesting a recommendation may feel natural. For those students who have not yet made a strong connection with a teacher, there is still an opportunity to consider what they have gained from their classes and how it connects to their interests, whether present or future.
Colleges vary in the number of recommendations they welcome. There is a surprising range of policies around this aspect of the college application, spanning as few as one optional recommendation from a school counselor to schools that will allow five or more from a variety of sources. Within the scope of recommendations, schools commonly request 1- 2 recommendations from teachers in academic “solid” classes rather than electives or arts classes. Additional outside recommendations may come from employers; coaches; volunteer coordinators — anyone who has known the student in a context that allows comments based on personal qualities such as leadership; maturity; impact; character; and more.
Asking early, before the end of junior year or early senior year, rather than up against last-minute deadlines demonstrates maturity as well as proper appreciation of the writer’s time and effort. May or June is a great time to approach teachers, when junior year progress is fresh in the teacher’s mind and the student still has time to boost engagement in the classroom.
It may be surprising to learn that a solid recommendation does not necessarily need to stem from the student’s highest performing class. Qualities in evidence may include engagement; work ethic, contribution to the class’s learning; attitude and drive. Student’s do not necessarily have to earn an A+ to demonstrate these strengths!
Whenever possible, requesting teacher recommendations is best done in person.
While students sometimes agonize over whom to ask and what that teacher may say in his rec, keep in mind that colleges review applications in their entirety and recommendations are one corner of the multi-piece puzzle. Students: Be sure to thank Mr. Morgan for his time now — and check back in later during senior year to let him know where you’ll be headed next fall. This way, you’ll come back full circle, letting your recommenders know that their hard work has paid off, setting the stage for the next group of juniors behind you.
ACT Launches ACT Academy, a Free, Online Learning Program Designed to Help Improve ACT Scores, College Readiness
ACT Academy is designed to offer learning tools as well as a program to support students with interactive approaches and a personalized study plan based on prior ACT test or diagnostic results. ACT Academy is slated to feature academic skill-building blocks among a robust collection of resources augmented by tips and strategies.
For more information about ACT Academy, visit: www.act.org/academy.
The Common Application has announced its 2018-19 college essay prompts, reflecting no change from the prompts established in last year's admission cycle.
Over 700 US and international colleges utilize the web-based Common App. Students choose among seven essay prompts, providing a platform for students to to create a personal statement that conveys aspects of their character; unique experience; personal growth; or individual focus. Students are permitted a maximum of 650 words to convey their personal statement through one of their chosen Common App essay prompts.
Here are the prompts for the upcoming admission cycle:
2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
"Through the Common App essay prompts, we want to give all applicants - regardless of background or access to counseling - the opportunity to share their voice with colleges. Every applicant has a unique story. The essay helps bring that story to life," said Meredith Lombardi, Associate Director, Outreach and Education, for The Common Application.
With nearly half of the school year in the rear view mirror, many juniors are thinking about what’s to come in the remaining months. If you’re blessed with a “glass half-full” perspective, high school juniors have a whole 5 - 6 months in front of them to make good progress on their college plans. Many students kick off 2018 with several excellent opportunities at their disposal, most of which require good planning and smart use of our most precious and fleeting resource: time.
What to Focus On Now
With mid-year exams on the horizon, one of the best plans of action now is to gain an early start in prepping for these exams. In my practice, I note that a large number of students find that the precious ground they’ve gained in a semester of classroom success is later dampened by a lesser midterm exam grade. Too many students pay too little attention to a significant exam that could push their semester grade up or down several quality points, potentially affecting the GPA. Hindsight can’t override a C+ on a midterm exam that brings down a student's A- work somewhere into the B or B+ range.KEY: Begin to gradually prepare for mid year exams. Don’t cram!
More and more, rising early action (EA) or early decision (ED) applications are impacting the college admissions landscape at colleges and universities across the nation.
The application calendar continues to push back toward early in the senior year, with some colleges using a slightly different set of admissions criteria or aiming to fill seats in the early rounds. Others employ the early schedule to manage their inflows both in the admissions office as well as in the financial aid office.
Early applicants typically find themselves in a smaller pool than do regular decision applicants, hence admissions officers may be able to devote more time to reading each individual application, potentially resulting in a more nuanced review. In addition, since ED becomes a binding commitment to attend once the student is admitted, students who pursue this route are thereby indicating to the college that the school is the student’s clear first choice. For those schools that aim to fill a significant percentage of seats in the early rounds, applying ED may enable the applicant a higher likelihood of admission versus waiting to submit an application with a much larger regular decision (RD) pool.
Still, some schools pursue a policy of accepting only "stand-out" applicants in the early rounds, more often than not deferring these applicants to the RD rounds. Deferred applications are later reviewed, enabling colleges to make decisions across a larger and complete pool of applicants.
Given that students applying ED are at the time of application making a commitment to attend regardless of financial need, it is commonly said that ED is the bastion of those who have the means to pay for college without the need to compare favorable merit, grant or loan awards. ED may also appeal to those students who have begun their college process relatively early and/or have taken the time to visit individual campuses to enable a single-choice focus.
Although not all colleges offer ED or EA schedules, there is no controversy around the stark reality that, generally speaking, ED or EA policies help drive applications to colleges. Given the growing numbers of early applications many colleges have been seeing over the last several admissions cycles, the clock on the college timeline ticks on with the trend toward early application likely to continue. READ MORE