What do counselor recommendations actually look like?

By Maxine Seya

When your high school senior is applying to college and needs to get a high school counselor recommendation, what exactly is that?

Unlike the name suggests, a high school counselor recommendation doesn’t always look like a recommendation letter we expect. “To whom it may concern, It’s my honor to recommend Johnny for admission to your institution…” etc.

Depending on the colleges on your student’s list, the counselor will be tasked with a variety of responsibilities to help your student get into college. Every college’s requirements of the counselor are different.

Here are the different forms your student’s high school counselor may have to fill out, depending on the school:

School report

Essentially all school counselors have to fill out something called a School Report. A school report has very little information about your student and has way more information about your student’s high school. Examples include the high school graduating class size, graduating class racial demographics, citizenship status, income status, school setting, the number of AP courses offered, GPA scale, etc.

School report sample

There is only a small part of the school report that actually reports information about your student using a checklist.

Your senior’s counselor will have to check off boxes answering multiple choice questions like:

  • “In comparison with other college prep students at your school, the student’s course selection is most demanding, very demanding, demanding, average, or less than demanding.”
  • “Compared to other students in their class, how do you rate this student in terms of academic achievements, extracurricular accomplishments, personal qualities and character, and overall?”
    • Options include: one of the top few encountered in my career, outstanding, excellent, very good, good, average, below average, or no basis.

Lastly, the counselor will have to check a box: “I recommend this student enthusiastically,

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.