How to Secure Strong College Recommendation Letters as a Junior

As the end of the school year approaches and the warm summer days beckon, it’s easy for high school juniors to become absorbed in thoughts of relaxation and beach outings. The November and January college application deadlines may seem distant, with plenty of time still on the horizon. However, taking proactive steps now can set you ahead of the competition and prevent last-minute stress.

In this article, we will explore the top 5 things juniors should do to ensure their recommendation letters stand out and leave a lasting impression on college admission officers. So, before you dive into the sun-soaked adventures of summer, invest some time and attention to secure strong recommendations that will propel your application to the top.

1. Secure Recommendations Early

While it may initially seem premature, it’s essential to approach your teachers for recommendation letters before the school year ends. In larger schools, popular teachers often have their schedules filled faster than you might imagine. Considering the time it takes to craft a compelling letter, waiting until the last minute can leave you scrambling to find available teachers.

Stay ahead of the curve by identifying the teachers who know you best and can paint a vivid picture of your intellectual curiosity and character. Avoid prioritizing the “most impressive” teacher who may have limited exposure to your achievements. Instead, opt for those who can share specific anecdotes that truly illustrate your potential.

2. Choosing the Right Recommenders

When selecting teachers to approach, consider those who have witnessed your academic growth and involvement in extracurricular activities. These are the educators who can shed light on your drive, passion, and dedication outside of rote classroom participation. Seek those who have seen you triumph in both the academic realm and in pursuing your interests.

By cultivating relationships with teachers who genuinely understand your journey and aspirations, you increase the likelihood of receiving personalized and genuine recommendations that reflect your unique qualities.

3. Streamline the Recommendation Process

Leverage the convenience of online application platforms, such as the Common Application, to request recommendations. This streamlined process makes it easy to invite your chosen teachers directly through the system.

To ensure a smooth communication flow, inform your teachers in advance that you will be adding them to the Common App once it is released in August. Keep in mind that some teachers may not frequently access their school emails during the summer break, so it’s wise to give them a heads-up.

4. Provide Guidance to Your Teachers

When adding your teachers to the Common App, they will automatically gain insight into the list of schools you plan to apply to. However, going the extra mile to communicate your aspirations and preferences can foster a more tailored recommendation letter.

Take a moment to compile a comprehensive list of the schools you are considering, accompanied by a brief explanation of what you find appealing about each institution. Sharing this information will assist your teachers in highlighting aspects of your profile that align with the values and culture of each college.

Pro-Tip: If you are applying to a mix of early decision/early action and regular decision institutions, remember to include the due dates for each school on your list.

5. Equip Your Recommenders with Your Accomplishments

Even if you believe your outstanding achievements are well-known within your school community, it’s unwise to assume that all teachers are aware of them. To provide your recommenders with a comprehensive overview of your accomplishments, share your activity sheet or resume ahead of time.

By equipping your teachers with a well-crafted document showcasing your extracurricular involvements, leadership positions, awards, and notable projects, you guarantee that these crucial details find their way into your recommendation letters. This broader perspective will enhance your application’s impact and showcase the depth of your involvement beyond the confines of the classroom.

Also read: How to Act if Your Teacher Recommendations Are Late


As you enter the summer break, fueled by the anticipation of sunny days and newfound freedom, take a moment to prioritize these five essential steps. By planning ahead and giving due attention to your recommendation letters, you’ll position yourself as an exceptional candidate in the fiercely competitive college admissions landscape.

So, go forth, enjoy your vacation, and rest assured that you’ve taken the first steps towards securing a bright future.

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