You’re applying to college, and you’ve finalized your list of schools, written your essays and submitted your transcripts.

Your applications are nearly complete—what’s missing? A thoughtful letter of recommendation to round it all out and explain what sets you apart. After several years of high school, there are lots of people who can vouch for your work ethic. So whom should you ask to write your letters of recommendation? Here are a few ideas to help you decide.

High School Counselor

Chances are you were assigned a counselor when you started high school. Over the past three years, you’ve most likely popped into their office at least a few times, whether to choose classes for the next year, to discuss your grades or maybe even to get advice on your college applications. If you were a regular visitor to their office, your counselor will have an understanding of how you’ve grown through high school and could be a good choice for your letter of recommendation.


Teachers whom you’ve spent extra time with are another great option. Whether you enjoyed the subject matter they’ve taught and stayed after class to chat or swung by for some extra help, these are the teachers who will really be able to speak to your work ethic and personality. Likewise, a teacher you had multiple times will likely know you better than one you only had for a single class. A recommendation from someone who can speak to your enthusiasm or willingness to put in the extra work can be a great addition to your application.

Coaches and Club Advisers

Don’t forget about your coaches and club advisers, either. A letter from a coach detailing your dedication to the game and your team can tell a school that you’re a great team player. If you weren’t on any sports teams, talk to the adviser of one of your after-school clubs. Whether you volunteered at local soup kitchens, designed the school’s yearbook, or organized a cultural performance, those extracurricular events are best backed up with a letter of praise.


If you’ve worked as a student, whether at a part-time job or an internship, your manager could be another great choice. Being able to hold down a job shows you’re responsible and consistent. And you’ve probably learned some great skills along the way, which your manager can highlight.


Were you assigned a mentor during your high school career? Whether it’s through your school or in an after-school program, your mentor was there to be a helper and confidant, someone for you to go to that was a bit more relatable than a high school counselor or a teacher. Asking them for a letter is an option too since they can write about how you’ve matured over the course of high school.

Regardless of who you choose, make sure to seek out someone who not only knows you well but who will write a standout letter. And if you need more than one, think about what each letter might add to your application and try to choose people whose notes will complement one another to paint a picture of you as the dynamic and appealing candidate that you are.

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