June 30, 2019

Rising Seniors: Explore your options for recommendations!

If you are a rising senior, you can start filling out your application now.  Some colleges and universities have already started to notify potential applicants of their supplementary requirements and essay questions, and by August 1, all of the information will be posted on Common App. That’s great news for applicants who want to finish most of their work before September.  However, no application is complete without the required or suggested number of recommendations!

It is very important to understand your options regarding recommendations, which can be found on the Common App in each college’s section called Recommendations and FERPA. You can access this tab only after creating an account on Common App, adding a college to “My Colleges,” and then scrolling down to “Recommendations and FERPA.”

Here are some tips about the recommendation process:

1. FERPA is an acronym for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. In order to move forward with asking teachers to provide recommendations, you must read and understand the FERPA Release Authorization. Common App’s Help Center will guide you through the decision as to whether to waive your rights to see your teachers’ letters of reference.

2. Your high school will be using Naviance eDocs for transcripts, school reports, and teacher recommendations. Make sure that you know your school’s procedure for requesting teacher evaluations. Also, think carefully about which teachers would provide colleges with the most valuable information about you as a student.  Most colleges prefer that you request recommendations from your junior year teachers who know you well.

3. Remember, this is an academic evaluation. It is a very good idea to thoroughly review the PDF of the teacher evaluation form so that you can make an informed decision about which teachers would give you the best references.  Also, many teachers request that you provide them with a letter or notes about what you learned in their classes, what grades you received, what you enjoyed about the subject area, and other details about you as a student in order to help them fill out the form or write their own reference letters.

4. Once your teachers submit their recommendations online, you can click on “Recommenders and FERPA” on each college’s supplement to see the updated status.

5. Each college will indicate how many teacher evaluations are required or optional.  However, do not overlook the option of adding references from “Other Recommenders” who know you in capacities other than the classroom.  You may select, invite and monitor these references through Common App, not through Naviance; each person will be asked to log on with a user name and password and then upload their letters.

6. The types and number of permitted recommenders vary, and each college supplement will tell you how many are suggested.  Options include: Arts Teacher, Clergy, Coach, College Access Counselor, Employer, Family Member, Peer, Other (Anyone else who does not fit into one of the above categories such as a mentor, co-worker, physician, etc.).

7. Most people consider it an honor to write something as important as a college recommendation. Be sure when you ask for recommendations to be respectful and polite as well as to provide all the information necessary in a timely fashion.  And don’t forget to thank each recommender as well as to keep them informed of your progress and final decision as to the college you will attend!

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