How Professional Relationships Can Affect Your Application

A recommendation letter means more than you think

Most high school students are studiously preparing for the SAT, cramming their application with well-selected extracurricular activities, and organizing volunteer work on the weekends. They work hard on college admissions essays about why they want to attend the school of their choice, their biggest failures, and the achievement that means the most to them. With so many neat and tidy boxes that need to be checked, other things like relationships can fall by the wayside.

To-do lists often trump the amount of time spent on relationships, but dating isn’t likely to be your highest priority during college application time. If you only have the time and energy to maintain and strengthen a handful of relationships, students might want to reconsider how important their professional relationships are during this time.

Polishing professional relationships doesn’t mean sending weekend texts or asking about a teacher’s recent vacation. It can be as simple as communicating respectfully, offering to help out when you see a desperate need, or seeking advice and counsel for an upcoming decision.

Professional relationships are those with someone who is in a position of authority over you, regardless of the location. Perhaps you’ve kept the same part-time job for the last two years or you’ve been especially close with the art teacher since your freshman year. This type of relationship can take on many forms: sports coaches, teachers, supervisors, school counselors, and volunteer coordinators to name a few.

For most college applications, they will request two to three letters of recommendation from people with whom you maintain a professional relationship. Aunts and uncles won’t be able to give you a glowing recommendation that gets you into college, so it’s crucial to start considering who you have a great working relationship with now. These letters of recommendation play several important roles in your college admittance.

Letters of recommendation allow admissions officers to see your true character. 

College admissions officers want to see that you have more going for you than a great grade point average. Many things they look for in potential students don’t translate well through the application, like a strong work ethic or integrity. A letter of recommendation gives colleges an opportunity to see you through someone else’s eyes.

A student who turns in work half-finished and never shows up to basketball practice on time is likely to have a hard time finding a letter of recommendation singing their praises. What is written in these letters, as well as what isn’t written, speaks volumes about who these people perceive you to be on their teams, in their schools, or in their places of business.

Recommendations give admissions officers an opportunity to see additional achievements. 

Perhaps you developed a very strong relationship with your science teacher because you struggled immensely with the coursework, even if your grade didn’t reflect your difficulty. There’s no place on your college application to detail the grueling work, countless study sessions, and infinite list of questions you brought to your science teacher to clarify the material. If there was a way to list this on your application, surely it would demonstrate how hard you would work at higher education as well.

Because this section doesn’t exist on an application, a letter of recommendation can help admissions staff to see these behind-the-scenes achievements. If you feel it necessary, you may want to gently remind your teacher of these accomplishments and suggest that they include it in your letter of recommendation if they see fit to do so.

They can explain outside circumstances that influenced your grades. 

Perhaps you struggled with something outside of school during your junior year that kept your academics from being the priority. It may have been a death in the family, a personal injury, or a mental illness that held you back from reaching your full potential. A professional relationship with someone who witnessed your personal trial and tribulation firsthand can help to offset the mark that time period made on your transcript.

Ultimately, a professional relationship can salvage all sorts of blemishes on your academic record and sing your praises to an expectant admissions counselor. It can take some time to assemble a list of people in your life whom you could trust to write an excellent letter of recommendation to the colleges of your choosing. In the end, you’ll be grateful for the time that you spend building relationships with people when the time to apply to colleges comes around.

If you’re having a difficult time figuring out who the best professional relationships in your life are, consider consulting a college admissions counselor or coach. A good college admissions coach can help you to take a step back to examine your academic and personal successes thus far and consider how they can assist you with your future plans. The guidance of a professional college admissions counselor can’t be understated when it comes to making your future dreams a reality.

Any college admissions coach can tell you a letter of recommendation means more than you think to colleges. See how a college admissions counselor helps you to develop a great working relationship.