Category Archives: Letters of recommendation

No 4.0 GPA? College is still possible!

Reading the newspapers or listening to other parents, you’d think that the only kids who get into college are those with a 4.0 GPA and a list of accomplishments most adults don’t yet have.

This is simply not true!

In my 20-plus years of working with high school students from all levels of accomplishment, I know that there are colleges for everyone who wants to attend, and work when they get there.

Here are some tips to finding the colleges that value YOUR accomplishments:

  1. Be realistic: If your GPA is 3.0 or lower, don’t aim for the most selective Happy studentscolleges – the 24 – 50 colleges whose names everyone knows. Recognize that in many cases these colleges are not better than ones no one has heard of, and they are definitely not the best for you.
  2. Know what colleges are looking at: they’ll look at your unweighted GPA in your core classes, and at what’s available at your high school. If a student tries to stretch within the curriculum and earns B/B+ in Honors or AP classes, that student is preferable to someone who took only standard level classes and got all A’s.
  3. What you do outside of the classroom is almost as important as what you do in it. Get involved in your school community through clubs, sports, fine arts, and community service. If nothing at your school interests you, find an activity outside of school to become actively involved in. This could be tutoring, a job, community service, Scouting, Big Brother/Big Sister, religious groups, or any of the other opportunities that exist in all communities.
  4. Take the time to really think about your application! Make sure that it is both accurate and complete.
  5. Answer the questions asked in the essays and don’t repeat what can be seen elsewhere in the application. This is your chance to become a human being to the college. Don’t rehash your activities or use it as the place to explain why you are not a good test taker.
  6. Choose your recommenders carefully. They should be teachers who really know you as a person and like who you are. Give the teacher the courtesy of asking well in advance if s/he is willing to recommend you.
  7. Work with someone who knows the college process and can help you navigate it to present yourself in the best light, while still being honest.

I work with students from all parts of the academic spectrum and find that it’s often easier for students not in the top 10% of the class to find the right colleges for them. These students are realistic, know how to work for their grades, and are multi-dimensional. For more insights, I recommend the following resources:

Finally, if the worst happens and none of the colleges you have applied to accepts you, a list is published each year after May 1st of colleges that still have room in their freshman class. Many of the names on this list would surprise you.

If you need more help with this or any other aspect of college planning, please call me at 803-487-977 or email to [email protected].

 

4 Tips for Winning College Letters of Recommendation!

What will your letters of recommendation say about you?  Will they make you stand out from other applicants? Here’s how you can ensure that you receive recommendations that help your college application to shine!

First, who are the best people to ask to write a recommendation?

Standard letters of recommendation: Guidance counselors and teachers from your junior or senior years. If you are a junior, this is a good

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time to ask your teachers for letters. Supplemental letters of recommendation: Coaches, employers, religious leaders, and other respected adults who know you well.

How much time should you give the person to write the recommendation letter?

Don’t make last minute requests and expect a great letter – or any letter at all. Give people at least three weeks to produce a good letter.

What should the person writing the letter say to make you stand out?

First, don’t expect those writing the letters to know everything about you.  Put together a resume that includes:

  • A personal statement that summarizes the skills or characteristics that you want to emphasize
  • Personal information – name, address phone, email
  • Education – including high school, advanced courses, honor rolls and any college courses you’ve taken
  • Skills and accomplishments – Consider the skills you want to focus on
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    and give examples. Athletics, musical talents, leadership through scouting, sports, school or religious activities, and research in which you participated are all great examples.

  • Volunteer activities – school or community service as well as religious groups or personal outreach activities.

How many letters of recommendation do I need?

Most colleges require at least one standard letter of recommendation, but additional letters can help to create a more well-rounded picture of you.

FYI – be aware that counselors do not have to alert you as to whether or not they will send a recommendation letter on your behalf.  Follow up with your counselor to find out whether they have sent a letter.  If not, it’s doubly important that you get a letter from a teacher or other adult as per above!