Recommendations are the pivotal piece of the college admissions process, often swaying the decision pendulum from a nay to a yea, or vice versa.  At a time when verbal communication and interpersonal skills are sometimes a challenge for even the most talented high school students, securing exceptional student-specific recommendations from teachers, guidance counselors and other professionals is more difficult than ever. The most expressive and meaningful recommendations are written by those who know and have a relationship with their student, now applicant.  Spending one’s four years of high school actually speaking face-to-face to the adults in a child’s academic and social life are the best way to not only secure unique, heartfelt recommendations but develop important verbal and social skills that are unique to today’s teen. 

Having spent many years as a private college advisor based in the New York metropolitan area, I have had the privilege of working with children throughout the U.S. and internationally.  Packaging a student, teaching them “Marketing 101” and getting to know them and sell them to top colleges and universities is the easy part.  Fortifying their application with recommendations that bring the point home and secure the sale is the key.  

For students beginning high school or for those entering their sophomore or junior years, my best advice would be to develop long-term, individual relationships with the adults in their world, whether teachers, employers, coaches, mentors or school administrators.  Those people who know a student best can document and confirm what we have sold in an application, validating their interests, strengths and sometimes weaknesses with a positive spin.  For those students entering their high school senior year, now in the whirlwind of the admissions process, carefully craft a letter to everyone writing your recommendations explaining who you are.  Then meet face-to-face to discuss it  to make sure they begin to get a sense of your true essence.  Do it now so they have the time to carefully craft a letter that is not boilerplate and speaks to you, the real you!  Creative, specific recommendations can very quickly swing that pendulum from a nay to a yea!


Employment in high school is a win! 

As a private college consultant working with high school and college students for over 14 years, while a primary goal of mine is to market and sell a student to amazing colleges and universities, a simultaneous goal is to assist that teen in developing her sense of self, competence, individuality and professionalism while becoming a true team player.  The workplace provides an important setting for a high school student to do that hands-on, while becoming comfortable and productive in a workplace, helping achieve both goals.. This is the type of student who adds a perfect piece to the puzzle as a college admissions team crafts their incoming class.

An applicant is given limited opportunities on a college application to show who she really is.  Those opportunities must be used wisely.  When employment is listed in the activities section of an application, it often speaks to that individual's maturity, drive and focus. An experience in the workplace can often trigger a thoughtful and creative, often unique personal statement. A job that is in line with an applicant's interests and intended major can then bring the point home. 

 There are few cons to high school employment.  However, balance during the high school process is the ultimate success story.  Before hiring me, many of my clients are overextended, exhausted and misguided to believe that every AP, IB or college class offered is essential to secure admission to a top university.  That is not true.  A success story is the process as well as the product.  A job during high school makes sense when it fits into an overall plan that allows a child to sleep at night and wake up in the morning to a well-rounded, sometimes intense, but manageable and happy day. I do not believe in allowing a child to drown by taking on too much because it has the potential to "look good" on a college application.  Employment makes sense when it is part of the whole package, allowing a student to expand herself, show who she is, grow...and live.  As a mother, we did not have children to torture them, we had them to give them a happy life path.  As a college consultant, that also remains at the top of the list!  I am still a mother first and my clients become my children. When the employment opportunity fits into that scheme, it is a win!