This fall, a small, but significant change has been made to the Secondary School Report section of the Common Application. Historically, the form has included a comparison chart for college counselors to rate a student relative to other students in their class, and then provide a written evaluation or recommendation. This application cycle, counselors will still be expected to complete the comparison chart, but they will be able to opt out of the written evaluation.
If you are concerned about how this might affect you, here are a couple of things you should know.
1) Some counselors work with hundreds of students, and simply do not know their students well enough, or have the time to write hundreds of detailed and thoughtful letters. If your counselor has a caseload of 500 students and elects to not write a letter for you, admissions offices will not penalize you for that. They understand that your counselor has too many students to work with and too little time, and will leave it at that.
2) On the other hand, if you go to a small school, admissions offices will expect a written evaluation from the counselor for every student. In that situation, it might appear strange if your counselor declines to write a letter for you. If you go to a small school, but don’t know your college counselor very well, there is still time to make a good impression!
3) You can ensure that your counselor will write you a detailed letter, but only if you take the time to build a relationship with him or her. If you are worried that your counselor may not know you very well, it’s not too late. Make an appointment with your counselor; ask if s/he would review your college list with you, or help you edit your essays. Even just spending some time in the counseling office, researching colleges or working on your applications, will provide an opportunity for your counselor to learn who you are, and see your commitment to the college process.
Of course, you can’t control what your college counselor actually ends up writing about you, but you can do some things to better the chances for a positive evaluation.