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Need a Solid School Counselor Recommendation? Start Now

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

When applying for college, there are two main types of recommendation letters you will need: one from your school guidance counselor and two by your core subject teachers. 

Securing a solid recommendation requires planning and consistency over the course of your high school career.

So let’s go over the counselor recommendation and how to get one that truly sets your application apart.

How is a recommendation from your guidance counselor different than one from your teacher?

The key difference is that you can’t choose who will write your guidance letter. You’ve likely got one assigned to you, and that’s it. But with teachers, you probably have plenty to choose from.

Another difference is the context in which the letter is written. 

A teacher’s letter describes you as a student in a particular class and focuses on your abilities, strengths and accomplishments. It answers question like:

  • What is your learning style?
  • How do you participate in class?
  • How much effort did you demonstrate on the assignments?
  • What aspect of study have you improved upon throughout the year?
  • How are you as a classmate, teammate, lab partner and peer?

But the purpose of a counselor’s recommendation is to provide context for your entire four years in high school. It aims to address things like:

  • What is the rigor of the high school?
  • How did you take advantage of the curriculum?
  • How did your courses challenge you?
  • What is the student body like?
  • How do you overcome long term challenges?
  • Do you have any extenuating circumstances?

Remember, guidance counselors often are responsible for advising many students.

So, how do you foster a relationship with someone so busy? Start early.

When should I start meeting with my guidance counselor?

I say start as early as freshman year.

I mentored a couple of freshmen last year to help them navigate their transition from middle school to high school. I always tell them they should meet at least once with their counselor within their first two weeks of high school.

That’s because the best way to build a relationship is for them to see you and know you.

Talk to them about middle school, the transition to high school, classes that interest you and your hopes for the future. They’re going to be there with you for the next four years, so it only makes sense to get to know them right away.

More Tips on Gathering Stellar Recommendations!

How can I make my connection with my counselor count?

Expand your conversations beyond scheduling and course selection.

Drop in periodically.

Chat with him or her about your goals, ambitions, academic work and other aspects of your life.

Need specifics? Try visiting him or her before winter break and ask about plans for the holidays.

Genuine interest can establish a personal relationship that does not solely revolve around academics. 

How often should I meet my counselor?

Reach out throughout the school year with updates about your academic and personal progress.

Make it a routine. That way, they’ll see your progress throughout the years. 

Although I encourage checking in often, avoid coming across as demanding or insensitive. Know that your counselor has lot of responsibilities and is also advising other students needing the same type of support.

I’m good with my guidance counselor reco. Can I send more?

In addition to the guidance counselor recommendation and teacher recommendations, colleges may allow you to submit additional letters of recommendation.

You can submit more teacher recommendations, such as from an elective teacher (art, graphic design, theater, vocal or band director), a coach, a work supervisor or an advisor from a community service organization. Some even ask for additional letters from your peers. More on that here.

Wanting more info on college recommendation letters?

Look into the significance of a “brag sheet” and how it can help propel your recommendation letter process.

Learn how a brag sheet can work for you.


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Author: Lauren

Lauren is a college student, double majoring in Economics and Psychology.