Last year I attended the NJACAC annual conference and had the opportunity to listen to David Weisbord, the Associate Director of Admissions at Columbia University speak how letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors can impact an applicant in a positive way. He identified the top ten areas of importance that he hopes to gleam from teacher and counselor letters of recommendation.
10) Academic and Non-Academic Strengths
- Which subjects does the student stand out?
- Does the student have a Special Talent?
9) Role Models?
- Who are the student’s role models? Teachers, politicians, artists, family members, athletes?
8) Demonstration of strong character and maturity
- Has the student overcome life adversity?
- Is the student an effective handler of stress and time?
- What family obligations does the student have?
7) Assertive or Laid-back
- How likely is the student to thrive in certain environment
- Is the student a change agent?
6) Student’s Best work in the classroom
- Was there a defining paper, research project, science lab work, or art work?
5) Intellectual curiosity
- Is the student a voracious reader
- Does he take any independent study classes
- Is she a learner of foreign languages
- Does student enroll in college courses for personal enrichment and not for college
4) Embrace diversity on college campus environment
- Does student have an active voice for diversity?
- Does he interact with different people?
- Is she open-minded?
3) High School and Community service
- Do student do it for themselves or just to get into college?
- Did student found a club?
- Was there a four-year commitment?
- Was there a summer commitment too?
2) Leadership without a title
- Did student lose election but stay active in the club?
- Did she organize a food or clothing drive?
- Did he do clerical work?
- Did student promote school spirit?
1) Left their mark
- Will you remember this student a few years after graduation?
- Was he a role model to freshmen and sophomores?
- Can we expect the same commitment on the collegiate level?
So as you ask your teachers for letters of recommendation, think about who will be able to speak to some of these areas the best. Since teachers get booked early, we recommend asking your teachers at the end of junior year.