Greetings Students and Families,

With  the 2019-20 Common Application and College Application (click to read my piece about Common App Updates) process in full swing, you may also know by now that there are three required additional components to your college application. 

  1. Teacher and Guidance Counselor Recommendations,
    2. Your High School and College Transcripts and
    3.  Standardized Test Scores.

The required elements specific to each college will be noted on the college website within the admissions tab.  For example, if you’re applying to the University of Florida or Cornell University – click on the highlighted links detailing all of the requirements.  Once you’ve applied, you’ll receive instructions on how to verify that all supporting components of your college application submitted OUTSIDE of the Common Application or Coalition application have been received.


First and foremost– all three of these supporting EXTERNAL documents can be submitted prior to or after the student submits the actual Common or Coalition Applications.  Don’t delay gathering and arranging for these documents.

Teacher Recommendations!!

Solicit your teachers as soon as possible.  Remember, teachers are very busy and asking for extra work later in the semester can delay completion of your recommendations.  Let’s look at this logically, if you are at the top of the pile before the school year gets too hectic, your recommendation will be timely and more detailed than if you delay. Out of respect to your teachers and all of their regular classroom and teaching commitments, please make your request sooner in the school year. Ideally, have the following materials ready for your teachers and guidance counselor not later than the first week of school!

Many teachers appreciate knowing what you would like them to speak about in their recommendation outside of the boilerplate language about how well you did in their class.   You can prepare a cover letter for your teachers (and some schools/teachers have a form for you to complete) and speak to any specific topics you want highlighted in your letter. You can jog their memory perhaps by noting something you completed in their class—perhaps you have written a spectacular term paper (mention how much you appreciated their feedback),  an awesome computer program or a final AP science project.  It is also recommended that you have a one page summary sheet of your accomplishments – similar to a resume, but not quite in the same format.  Speak about the classes you’ve taken, your intended college major, any awards or achievements you’ve earned at the local or national level.  Make sure your teachers are aware of the challenging program of study you completed thru your junior year and inform them of what you’ll be taking during your senior year.   Having something on paper serving as a reminder is preferable to an email that is overlooked (This happens every year!).  SEE BELOW

Your teacher may decide to customize each letter of recommendation for each college- but chances are that your teacher will write one recommendation for all universities.
***If you are applying Early Decision – please alert your teacher so the letter of recommendation can perhaps be specific to a particular campus. You can help your teacher by notating in your chart below: “I’m applying to Cornell ED as the program in Computational Biology is unique and aligns with my experiences including my summer internship and my interests in Computer Science and Microbiology”.


Yes, you can submit your college application before your teacher writes and submits the recommendation and yes your teacher can submit the recommendation before you submit your application. Same is true for transcripts and test scores.   JUST DO IT!

Step 1: On Common App:   Add the College to your list following my previously provided detailed instructions containing screen shots of “interesting” parts of the CommonApp.
Step 2:  On the “My Colleges” tab, open any college – and on the left hand side bar click:  “Recommenders and FERPA”

You will be prompted to sign the FERPA release—waive ALL your rights –!!!
You will then be prompted to “add recommender” – entering the name, contact information.
Your teacher or external recommender (perhaps a summer college professor) will receive an email and login information.  Your teacher will receive email reminders if these aren’t submitted.

Step 3: Once you apply to a college (and I’ll have more to say about this later this fall), you’ll have instructions on where to track and follow the status of your application, including whether all required elements have been received.  Trust me- if something is missing, you don’t want to wait until January – check check check!

I highly recommend that you provide your teachers  with as much information as possible to make this process less time consuming.  In addition to providing your activities resume and perhaps your completed Common App Core essay , a simple one page list with the following information goes a long way in helping your teacher prepare a useful letter of recommendation.

UniversityIntended MajorDueFormat to Submit
HarvardGovernmentVia Common Application – email provided
SUNY AlbanyPoliticsVia SUNY PortalEmail provided
University of MarylandPsychologyVia Coalition AppEmail provided
Scholarship XYZn/AMail to:
Summer ProgramClass Name/ programEmail to:


  • PLEASE SEND THANK YOU NOTES and a small gift is provided in April/May when you have placed a deposit at the college you’re attending — but are appropriate in appreciation of each of teachers writing letters on your behalf.

How/Where/When to send my high school transcript to complete my college application?

Every high school has it’s unique process on requesting and sending these forms.  Please speak with your guidance counselor/guidance office.  The process may be a simple form at your high school, or your guidance counselor may submit these transcripts for you through the Naviance portal.   Some school districts use third party services.  If your college list is final- please send these on ahead.

*** Many universities do require a mid-year secondary grade report to be sent at the conclusion of the first semester (two quarters).  ED applicants may also be required to send a first quarter report.  Whatever college you attend will require a final high school transcript showing you’ve earned your high school diploma and completed the senior year classes you indicated on your college application.  All changes to classes during the senior year MUST be reported to all colleges.

How/When do I sent my SAT/ACT and AP scores.

Depending on where you’re applying and the university-specific requirements, you may be sending SAT/ACT scores,  SATII subject tests scores or alternate scores.  Your Common Application has space to self-report all these and your AP scores. Please discuss your situation with your college counselor.

In addition to self-reporting,  official test scores are required.  Some colleges superscore and others do not- the complete list is provided in earlier resources I’ve written.    The most selective universities require you to submit all your scores.  Keep in mind, even with score choice, many high schools have your test scores automatically noted on your transcript. You can request these be omitted – ask me how to go about doing so!

On both the College Board and ACT organization, login to your account and follow the prompts to send scores.  If you are still taking additional test scores, please wait until all your testing is completed.  That said, as noted in my resources,  make sure you’ve checked the last available test date of exams that is accepted for each university on your radar.

ALL STUDENTS: Test taking- have you confirmed your test preparation plans and test dates?
ACT/SAT for most colleges and for those of you looking at competitive colleges: SATII Subject tests
Please read my previous blogs:




Have questions about which universities are a great fit?
Have questions about your Common Application or Coalition Essay?
Not even sure where to begin?  
Just starting high school or even your junior year and unsure about what classes to take, where to visit or steps to take to realize your educational goals?