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Dear Estelle. How important are the teacher and counselor recommendations that accompany the college application? I hear that the colleges never really look at them but are mainly concerned with a student’s GPA and test scores? I am so busy now that I barely have time to sleep or socialize with my friends. JGR, Student, Cherry Creek High School

Believe it or not, the recommendations are very important and the people you select to do them are equally important. This is an exceedingly busy time for you and all the other seniors around the country but you won’t regret identifying recommenders who will give your applications an extra boost. The recommendations can be used for all your applications just like your essays and will be worth the time you spend putting together a short resumé to highlight your activities and interests prior to meeting with your teachers and counselor.

The letters provide information about your academic performance and give critical insight into your work habits while discussing how you’ve handled challenges which have confronted you both in and out of school.

Teachers are eager to see you succeed in school and are pleased when you’ve accomplished your goals in spite of setbacks. They’ve been able to observe your growth academically and will be able to include anecdotes, which you share with them, about your performance as a mentor, for example, with younger students or your assistance with new students in your high school.

Occasionally you may want to submit a letter from someone in the community who has had an important influence in your life i.e. your piano teacher who has seen diligence and growth in your performance. You may select a person who has supervised you in a volunteer situation and can attest to your concern for people and your willingness to showing up when you’re scheduled.

Remember, all your teachers have numerous recommendations to write so start early. Select 11th or 12th grade academic teachers with whom you have established a good relationship and who are well acquainted with your work. Most letters can be uploaded right to your applications and sent directly to the colleges.

Be sure to waive the right to see the recs. This allows the recommenders to be more forthright and candid in their appraisal. Chances are that if you’ve selected them your relationship is strong and you needn’t worry about what they will say.

Resist the temptation to ask “significant” individuals in you community for letters unless they know you personally and have had significant interaction with you. This type of recommendation doesn’t qualify for many points.

Lastly, provide a list of deadlines and necessary forms to complete the recs.  Provide stamped addressed envelopes if your recommenders plan to mail the letters.  In most cases, schools have computer systems, like Naviance, which help to facilitate submission of the letters online.

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