Step 5: Get recommendations for the Common App
As we mentioned, each college sets its own recommendation requirements, so students do need to check exactly what they’ll need for every Common App application.
Recommenders are separated into categories of counsellors, teachers or ‘Other’. This final category can, unsurprisingly, be quite broad. Depending on where students are applying, it might be a sports coach, an employer, a dance instructor or so much more!
Which teachers should students ask for recommendations?
It can be tricky for students to know who to ask for recommendations. Sometimes, their ‘favourite’ teacher isn’t actually the best choice. Another common impulse is to choose teachers from the subjects in which students achieve the best grades - but again, that’s not always wise.
Colleges want to hear from teachers who can write about students’ drive, persistence, curiosity and commitment. While a student might achieve straight As in Maths, they might sit quietly in class and often turn in homework late because - although they have an aptitude for it - they’re simply not that interested.
On the other hand, they might be seeing more mixed results in Politics, but make lively contributions to debates, create innovative projects and arrange one-to-one sessions with the teacher to try to improve their grades.
In this scenario, the Politics teacher will probably be able to write a much more compelling recommendation than the Maths teacher could!
As a rule of thumb, students should also seek out teachers who taught them during their penultimate year of school. Those who are teaching them in their final year might not yet know them well.
It’s a good idea to get recommendations from teachers of core subjects: English, Maths, Sciences, Foreign Languages and Social Sciences. If a college wants more than one recommendation, it’s usually best to try and get them from two different subject areas.
How can students add recommenders to the Common App?
Students will need to invite each recommender individually. After sending the invitations, students need to assign each recommender to the appropriate college.
Recommenders won’t receive any notification until they’re assigned to a specific college. So students should remember to assign recommenders to colleges right away, rather than simply adding them generally!