How to Choose References for a College Application

Recommendations help colleges see an applicant as an individual.
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References are a crucial part of a college admissions application. While high school performance and activities are the primary gauges of a student's college readiness, references from respected teachers, coaches and community leaders can make an applicant stand out.

1 Teachers and Counselors

During high school, students work with many faculty members. In their junior and senior years, college applicants should assess which teachers have made the strongest impact on them and for whom they have produced their best work. To give a well-balanced picture of a high school career, letters should come from teachers from different subject areas. Colleges also value references from counselors, who may have a long-term view of a student's progress through the years and understand the student's motivation in applying to a specific school. Ask for a recommendation well in advance of application deadlines, as teachers and counselors may have many references to write.

2 References From Outside the Classroom

A strong admissions application includes records of activities, community service and perhaps paid employment after school hours. Recommendations from supervisors, coaches and bosses can be included in the application as long as the individuals have a close working relationship with the student over time.

Andrea Godbout has been writing professionally since 2000. She has served as a columnist for Angie's List, highlighting products and businesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Godbout earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from Barnard College and a Master of Arts in education from New York University.