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All, College Applications

High School Transcripts and Recommendations

It’s important to understand the role your school counselors and teachers have in supporting your college applications. Many colleges require a copy of your transcript sent directly from your high school. In addition, school profiles, counselor recommendations, and teacher recommendations can provide important context to your application.

Your school may use Naviance, Scoir, Maia, or other record keeping systems to send transcripts and recommendations to college admissions offices. It’s likely that your high school requires advance notice to send these documents, sometimes as much as a month. When students don’t pay attention to their school’s process, they can have unpleasant surprises like missing application deadlines because they were missing school transcripts and letters of recommendation.

So, what parts of your application come from the school, and how can you help this process go smoothly?

How do School Counselors Support College Applications

School counselors are responsible for forwarding official school transcripts to colleges. They may send transcripts to several colleges during the application phase, then send a final transcript to the college the student plans to enroll at.

The transcript is a record of each course a student took, grades in each course, and grade point average (GPA). You may be able to see an unofficial transcript on the record keeping software your school uses. School counselors may also submit a school profile with background information on their school, including available courses, graduation requirements, grading and GPA weighting policies, and other information that give context to a student’s educational experience. The school counselor might also write counselor recommendation letters.

Teacher Recommendations

Many colleges require letters of recommendations from teachers. Look carefully to see how many are required and if the student may submit additional letters of recommendation. Some colleges might ask for recommendations from core course teachers or even specify math and English teachers. You can find these details in the college application or on the college’s website in the section for Admissions. You should approach teachers to ask if they are willing to write a recommendation for you; don’t just assume they will agree. Teachers often ask students to provide a brag sheet or a brief resume. At some schools this info may be collected through an online questionnaire.

Because of Covid, some students worry that teachers won’t write strong recommendations, because classes were virtual. If you didn’t interact much with your core course teachers, consider a core teacher from the year before, a current teacher, teachers who know you from clubs or activities, or the teacher of an elective course. If you’re not sure a college will accept letters from these recommenders, don’t be afraid to contact their admissions office and ask.

Know How Your School Handles High School Transcript and Recommendation Requests

Schools may have a specific process for how students request transcripts and recommendations. Some require students make requests through Naviance, Scoir, Maia, or other student record keeping systems. Students might need to give counselors and teachers a resume or brag sheet that highlights accomplishments (this is a good idea even if it’s not required). Students might even have to show proof that they have submitted their portion of college applications.

Failure to follow your high school’s steps for requesting transcripts and recommendations might leave your applications lacking key information or even being considered incomplete. It can take several weeks for a busy counseling office to provide the requested records to colleges, so don’t leave this to the last minute.

Student need to coordinate with their counseling office and teachers well ahead of application deadlines. Students applying early to meet Early Decision, Early Action, or fall Rolling Decision dates need to be especially on the ball. Unfortunately, some students don’t follow their school’s process, and they miss early deadlines as a result.

Pro Tips for Getting Transcripts and Letters of Recommendation

  • Know and follow the process your school uses for requesting transcripts and recommendations.
  • Read your high school counseling center website for information for seniors.
  • Watch for announcements of class meetings or online info sessions.
  • Make an appointment in early fall with your counselor to discuss the colleges you plan to apply to and target deadlines.
  • Talk to teachers about recommendation letters rather than just adding their contact info to your applications.
  • Ask about special circumstances, like early deadlines for military academies, recommendations from non-teachers, or transcripts from multiple high schools.

Counselors and teachers want their students to be successful. But they also have a lot of demands on their time. They need time to write meaningful teacher and counselor recommendations. Learning how your school handles the process and working far ahead of deadlines will help you complete applications on time.