Recommendations are usually an important part of the college application process. Many selective four-year colleges require them as part of the standard application. Typically, colleges require two teacher recommendations and one counselor recommendation. You can read more about that in this previous blog. But one of the questions we get often is what to do if a student wants to send in an additional recommendation: one from a coach, rabbi, art teacher, etc. We will explain what to do in this blog.
One additional recommendation
The general rule of thumb is that students can ask one adult for an additional recommendation. This could be a principal, employer, coach, etc. Some schools will review this additional recommendation as part of the application process. But it is important that you not submit an additional recommendation unless it has information in it that isn’t presented elsewhere in your application or by another recommender. If you feel that you absolutely have one more person who can add perspective to your application, you can submit one additional recommendation (if the college allows it, see more below).
Sometimes less is more
If a students submits an additional recommendation “just because” it could actually hurt their overall application. Admission counselors may resent the extra reading material and extra work if it serves no purpose. So do not send in an additional recommendation if it isn’t needed. Don’t annoy the person who will be evaluating your application.
Follow the rules
It’s important to follow each college’s rules to the letter. For example, here is what the University of Virginia says about submitting additional materials: “We do not accept resumes, abstracts, research, or writing portfolios. We do not accept supplements that fall outside the lines of art supplements (for the arts, architecture, and marching band)… Recommendations should come from your counselor and a teacher of your choice. The feature for submitting “other” recommendations is even turned off in Common App to stop non-academic recommendations from coming in. Please respect our process and follow the application instructions on our website.” If you read writing like this on a college’s website, absolutely do not send in any additional materials. Failure to follow the rules could hurt your admission chances.
Two creative approaches
If your colleges don’t accept additional recommendations, but another adult has information that is especially relevant and significant to your application, one way to go about providing that information is to have that adult write a letter to your school counselor. A school counselor may be able to include a quote or anecdote from another teacher, for example, in their letter. Another way would be for the student to use the Additional Information Essay as a way to convey the information that would have been presented in the additional recommendation. Both of these solutions would have to be carefully discussed and executed with the help of a college counselor and school counselor.
The bottom line here is, review each college’s website carefully and even ask the admission office directly to check and see if they accept additional recommendations. If they do, make sure that the additional recommendation offers something new that isn’t highlighted elsewhere in your application. And remember that sometimes less is more.