Tagged: teacher recommendations

What Makes A Good Professional Reference?

If you aren’t actively job hunting you probably aren’t thinking about your references.  Now is the best time to lay the ground work for excellent recommendations.

Be nice to the people you work with.  Everyone: your team mates, people above you (even if they aren’t in your direct chain of command) and those you manage.  Someone at a company you will approach later may know your colleagues and give them a call for an opinion.What will they say about you?



Ideally, you want to have your co-workers, and especially those you select as references, say an enthusiastic “YES!!” when asked if given the opportunity they would work with  you again.  Hopefully, the yes will be backed up with lots of anecdotal evidence of your worthiness.

Choose your references for their knowledge of how you could perform in the new role, ie, not your BFF from your last job.

Advise the references that you are interviewing.  When you are ready to be asked for references, let these folks know.  Tell them the name of the company, who will call and a little about the job so that they can frame their comments around your ability to successfully complete the tasks.

The most effective way to get a high recommendation is to be a reference yourself.  When someone you work with leaves the job, contact them and tell them how much you enjoyed working with them, wish them well.  Make it known that you will be happy to act as a reference if needed.  Stay in loose touch with people who can attest to your capabilities.

If you have pursued college applications with me, you will immediately see that this advice is similar to and built on the work we did for your high school teacher recommendations.  References shouldn’t be left to chance, they should be a work in progress.

Did you know that many companies will only verify your dates of employment?  you need to prepare for great references of your choosing.  Lets talk about how to do that. stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-2120-6679

Tips On Getting Letters of Recommendation


All college applications request a letter from your guidance counselor and usually expect 1 or more teacher recommendations.  Your counselor is predetermined but you get to choose who will write the teacher recs.  Please read to the end of this post to learn what to do if you are asked to write your own recommendation.

1. Most schools prefer that students ask for recommendations at the end of junior year so that teachers can take time to write thoughtfully over the summer.  If you school has other policies, be certain to follow them.

2. Who should you choose?  Ideally, the persons you approach should know you well.  Perhaps you’ve taken  more than one class with a favorite teacher or one of your current teachers is the advisor for a club or organization you belong to.  The more interaction  you’ve had, the more detailed the letter from the teacher can be.

3. Its helpful to write a note asking for the recommendation and to present the note to the teacher during a free period, before or after school.  If you have copies of assignments from the class you took with this teacher, you could offer them along with the note, or continue the conversation by mentioning how much you enjoyed, or struggled, or learned from the work.

4. Also give the teacher a list of colleges to which you are applying.  Know if there are special requirements for submitting the letters via Naviance, if you high school uses this tool.  If the letters will be submitted by mail, attach any forms and addressed, stamped envelopes.

5. Before school begins for senior year, check with the guidance office to make certain that all recommendations have been turned in.  Then write a thank you note to each person who wrote a recommendation.

What Should You Do If Asked To Write Your Own Recommendation?

I’m learning that self-written letters are becoming a common practice, particularly at large high schools.  Unfortunately, many counselors don’t know all the students in their cohort and use the self-written recommendations as guides (or just turn in the student’s work).  If you are asked to write such a letter here’s what to do.

1. Special circumstances.   Counselor recommendations are used to explain circumstances not in evidence elsewhere in the documentation.  When a family experienced trauma, death, financial hardship, student academic problems, learning challenges or any other factor affecting the student’s performance, it is usually the counselor who offers the information.   If this applies to you, write this part of your story.  First, the circumstance (what happened); next, how you were affected; the current state of your recovery or accommodation.

For instance, in 11th grade you were found to have dyslexia; what treatment has occurred and how have your grades improved?  Ex 2, Your parents experienced a messy divorce and you were unable to focus on academics; what has changed and how are you coping?

2. Your Achievements.  Take out your resume and activity lists.  The format you should have used to create both is: List the organization, dates participated, what you did and how it benefited the club.  Ex. French Club, 3 years, As program chair started a French club at an elementary school; increased membership by 20%.  Ex. International Club, 3 years.  Facilitated the smooth running of meetings by setting up, arranging refreshments, cleaning up.

Don’t just copy your Resume or Activities List, choose a few items and amplify what you’ve written, including the importance to you of this activity or event, something you particularly enjoyed or learned, leadership role, how the experience might impact your college experience. Ex. Environmental Club.  I worked with local organizations and officials to clean up a trash from a creek.  I’ve learned about the world-wide clean water shortage and hope to take a trip to Africa where I can participate in a clean water project as well as taking courses in hydrologly in the geology department to learn more about water.

3. Executive functioning.  These skills include persistence, organization, time management, and so on.  You want to present the skills with supporting evidence. Ex. Persistent: failed 2 tests Algebra 2, got help from teacher and secured a tutor from National Honor Society.  Brought grade up to a C+.   If you are unclear on what to say, try asking teachers and classmates to describe you in 1 word, or in 3 words.  Use their comments to develop this section.

4. Goals.  What do you want to get out of your college experience?  Are you planning your coursework so you can study abroad?  Do you have plans to take specific courses to learn about a special interest?

When you’ve completed your recommendation, have several people you trust read it over.  Discuss it with your guidance counselor.

Asking for your letters of recommendation is good practice for getting a job.  You will need to know your strengths and who can best describe them to others.  Don’t gamble on getting winning testimonials, prepare the path for the people whom you will ask.  Be professional in your approach and show your appreciation generously.

Questions?  Call/text  me at 610-212-6679 or email stephanie@accessguidance.com


Inside Your Admissions Portfolio

Ever wonder what a college admissions office puts in the folder with your name on it?

In order of importance,  first is your high school transcript.  This document shows the difficulty of the courses you’ve chosen.   This is the Number One predictor of success at any college.  So, if  like me, you didn’t take much math because you really have no number sense, are you penalized?  Not at all if you’ve chosen AP, IB or challenging courses in  other subjects.

Taking upper level course work hints at your attraction or aversion to taking risks.  Are you willing to risk a B or C because you want to learn about something?   Even stronger is the suggestion that you can be motivated by curiosity – a very good sign!

Second, is your reported test scores.  The numbers on the score sheet indicate that you can read proficiently enough (speed and comprehension) to evaluate the material and answer questions about it.  Your math score measures how much math you have taken and understood.  Reading on the SAT and the three other subject sections of the ACT present passages based on concepts from typical high school courses.  Your scores indicate your ability to think critically.   Not all students test well making scores an imperfect benchmark.  However, aggregated scores from a high school offer some indication of possible grade inflation when they don’t support applicants’ grades.

Third, is your application and the materials that support it.   Most valuable are your principle and supplementary essays from which the reader gleans insight into who you are other than a brilliant student.  Your choices on your activities list, a portfolio or additional materials show what you value and why.  Adding a resume provides additional space to highlight leadership and accomplishments.

Fourth, the admissions rep who conducts your interview will add notes.  Not all colleges offer interviews on campus but most will arrange for applicants to  meet with alumni who live near the student’s home.

Fifth, are recommendations from the guidance counselor and teachers.  The admissions officers read the recommendations carefully.   Your guidance counselor can use this space to explain that a difficult situation caused your grades to drop for a semester or that an injury kept you out of school for a month.  From the teacher recommendations, admissions readers are looking for specific qualities that will help you in college such as persistence, curiosity, creativity, and independence.

The last piece is the High School Profile.  Each school sends this document along with the transcript and recommendations.  The profile contains a description of the demographics of the school district, a list of AP courses offered, per cent of graduates continuing to 2- and 4-year colleges, and other information that gives the admissions office a picture of your school.

When all the pieces are in place, the admissions officer who evaluates your application gets to know  you and how you have used the opportunities afforded by your high school.  With this picture in mind, a decision is made welcoming you or sending regrets.

As you can see, each section of your application reveals new information.  Let me help you showcase your unique personality in a winning application. 610-212-6679 or stephnaie@accessguidance.com


Get the Recommendations You Deserve

Easy, right? Ask your favorite 11th grade teacher to turn in a rec to the guidance office by a certain date. With Naviance, if your high school uses the service, there is even a form and format on line.

Not so fast. What do you want the recommendation to say? What would the college admission officer want to read about you?

The purpose of the recommendation is to give detail about you as a student beyond the grades and rigor of the coursework. The critical word in that sentence is “detail“. A recommender must know you well in order to provide examples.

A good college recommendation. or job reference, comes from someone who knows you well. The writer could be the 9th grade French teacher you’ve stayed in touch with by dropping in between classes or after school. You could be a member of a club that he advises. You’ve kept him apprised of your goals and progress, asked him questions about France, engaged with him on multiple topics.

Here are some things the French teacher might say:
-Has an abiding interest in all things French (curiosity and persistence)
– Member of French club for 4 years, ran our fund raisers for 3 years (commitment)
-Has a 10,000 word French vocabulary (diligence)
-Plans to spend a college semester abroad in France (uses long-term planning)
-With a degree in history hopes to do French geneology research (sets goals)
-Participated in and invented games in class to increase French vocabulary (creativity)
-Reads French magazines and comic books (shares personal interests)

Another recommender could be the chem teacher who taught the most challenging class you’ve taken so far.
-Found chemistry to be difficult but came to class prepared everyday (persistence)
-Asked for help from me and others (problem solving)
-Participated in class (good class manners and citizenship)
-Joined Chemistry Club for moral support ( creative solution finder, determination)
-Will fulfill college science requirement in a less math-focused course (realistic)
-Has deep interest in environmental policy formation (curiosity, passion)
-Has reputation in school for leadership and support of student causes (respect of teachers and students)

Two things are important here. The first is that the teacher knows you well. The French teacher spent lots of time over three years with the first student. The chemistry teacher knew the student for one year but got to see good qualities through their frequent tutoring sessions.

The other important point is that each high school student demonstrated qualities that are desirable in a college student. The recommenders gave illustrations of those qualities.

Start early to develop relationships with teachers
Make a list of qualities that you see in yourself and where you are displaying them in school.
When you select recommenders do so based on how well they know you and what they can say about you,