There are parts of your application you can control at this point (like essays) and parts of your application you can’t control at this point (like your transcript). Then there are parts of your application that fall somewhere in between: you have some but not complete control. The best example of this is your recommendations.
Many colleges will require a recommendation to come from your college or school counselor. This person will provide us with a bit about you in the context of your school, your path, different curricular choices you have made, plans for your future. Chances are this person has been assigned to you, sometimes for a long time. So while you can’t necessarily choose who will write this recommendation, you can influence the relationship you have with them.
Application Advice #3: Actively engage with your college or school counselor (they are awesome). In meetings with your counselor, be prepared and be present. These folks can be an incredible resource for you, both in guidance they can provide and how they represent you to colleges. Don’t think about appointments with your counselor as something to check off your to do list, but an opportunity for them to get to know you. The better they know you, the more accurate and authentic a recommendation they can write.
If you attend a large school where your counselor has a large case load, it can be hard to get time with them. Don’t worry; it’s the job of your application reader (someone like me) to know your high school, and we understand many high school counselors are stretched - pulled in lots of directions for a large number of students. If this is the case for you, take advantage of the opportunities you do get with your counselor and make sure you follow application advice #4 below. And consider sending your counselor a note thanking them for the work they do, bring them a cup of coffee or a donut, or ask if there is anything you can do to help them out. They are working hard for many students. This isn’t application advice; this is just encouraging you to remember to be a good person.
Application Advice #4: When you’re considering who should write your teacher recommendations, don’t think about the classes where you got the best grades or the subjects that came the most naturally to you. Think about which of your teachers you would want to have coffee with me. I want to read recommendations from folks who can really talk about you, who have anecdotes to share, who have seen you struggle and push through, who have seen your a-ha moments, who have helped you think about your future. These are the folks who would be great company over a cup of coffee.
And: regardless of who writes your recommendations, please, please, please remember to thank them. (Again, more good person advice).