A Parent’s Perspective: How to help your child carefully select their Common Application recommenders
The Common Application can feel like a minefield of endless sections in which your child must upload his or her work or personal information - their profile, family details, education history, testing results, extracurricular activities and the highly important personal statement and supplementary essays. Thankfully, help exists in the form of mentoring from current students and recent graduates who were successful in securing their own top-ranked university offers - enter the Crimson network. Our network of admissions experts help students to navigate the maze of application requirements - even the one section where your child may feel they are inevitably ‘on their own’.
The section for ‘Teacher and Other Recommenders’ must be completed by your child’s careers advisor, teachers and other mentors and it is your child’s responsibility to choose these recommenders and ask them to provide references to upload to the Common Application. This is where your child may feel a ‘loss of control’;firstly because they have to be sure in their choices and secondly because they most likely will not see the recommendation before it is submitted.
So how do they make sure this important part of their application is at a standard they are happy with? How do they help educate their recommenders as to what admissions officers might expect?
These are fair questions given many careers advisors and teachers are not familiar with the US application process, but there are many ways you and your child - with the help of Crimson Education - can assist your child’s recommenders to craft and submit outstanding recommendations on your child’s behalf.
The first step is to start thinking about potential recommenders early. As soon as your child knows they want to apply to overseas universities, arrange a meeting with your child’s school careers advisor and talk about what might be needed. A Crimson consultant can also be on hand to assist your counsellor and many schools have used Crimson’s help in negotiating the recommendation process...even down to the technical physicality of uploading the recommendation onto the Common App page.
In regards to the other two teacher recommenders, think about:
- A teacher your child has the strongest rapport with - perhaps one who has known them for a long time and taught them at various stages throughout their high school career.
- A teacher who writes well. This may sound exclusive, but if your child has an amazing English teacher for example, asking them for a recommendation will most likely assure a well-communicated response.
- A teacher who offers a fresh perspective - this point may seem contradictory to the aforementioned point above, but if your child chooses one teacher from the Humanities, the second one may be from a STEM based subject (or a language), which will showcase your child’s ability to excel in diverse areas of study.
Whatever the case, it is also best to include these teachers early. By making them familiar with the US recommendation requirements (once again Crimson can provide help), you not only make the process easier for the teacher, but assure they will create a well-crafted recommendation university admissions officers can relate to.
Moving on to the ‘Other Recommenders’ options - here your child has the wonderful opportunity to ask someone important to them to shed more light on who they are as a person. While some universities will limit their application process to teacher recommendations, many afford your child a chance to ask: a significant member of their community, a sports coach, a part-time employer, a family friend/mentor or even a peer to upload a supplementary recommendation. Dartmouth College in fact strongly recommends a peer reference - in which case your child may need to consider which of their friends it is best to approach.
Even after the Common Application is done and dusted - with all required recommendations uploaded and submitted, there is an opportunity to upload supplementary recommendations on your child’s individual university application portals. So for example, if your child’s friend knocks it out of the park when it comes to a personal recommendation, this may be one to add after the application deadline has passed.
In all cases, the more you brief your child’s recommenders the better. While their references will - and should - reflect your child’s true nature and achievements, sometimes even the best of reference intentions miss the mark due to a lack of understanding as to what may be required.
The most important thing to remember is that these recommenders are vital when it comes to colouring in the strong outlines drafted in your child’s application. They also help shed more light on your child’s personal statements - the conglomeration of academics, extracurriculars, essays AND recommendations forming the ‘masterpiece’ that will have admissions officers sitting up, taking notice, getting to know your child for who they really are and understanding why they will be a real asset to their university campus the following Fall.
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How to ask for a recommendation or reference letter
They may seem like a stressful part of the application to organise, but for top-tier universities like Harvard; with an admission rate as low as 4.6%, letters of recommendation are fundamental in supporting your application.