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Creating a Story with College App


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So with the complete college application packet, all of the pieces (application, essay, resume, letters of rec, transcript, course descriptions, counselor letter) work *together* to tell a complete story, correct?

So the counselor letter should not rehash or summarize info from the transcript, resume, etc.  And there’s no need for a laundry list of activities in her essay.  Is that right?

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Yes. The counselor letter should not rehash the transcript, but rather speak to the personality and character of the student. It's a great place to elaborate on anything unusual.
The essay should give some insight into what makes the student "tick", not act as a resume.

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Posted (edited)

I wouldn't summarize the transcript, but that doesn't mean that that part of their story isn't reflected in their transcript.  For example, I discussed my dd's passion for languages and how she self-taught herself French.  How she was told by her Russian teacher that her French pronunciation was impacting her Russian and how she walked around the house and outside practicing her Russian sounds.  The latter led to her being awarded best non-heritage speaker at a regional olympiada and being told by a judge that originally she was judging her as a heritage speaker and she was shocked when she realized she wasn't.   Those courses were obviously on her transcript.  The purpose of the counselor letter was to highlight her internal motivation and her determination in achieving her goals.

Edited by 8filltheheart
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The advantage of homeschooling is you can write your counselor letter so that it complements rather than repeats what is contained in other documents.  So if your robotics champion student will be writing extensively in her essay about her experience on the robotics team, you can use the counselor letter to write about some other aspect of her personal qualities.   

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I think of the counselor letter as a tour guide and the rest of the application as the gallery. It doesn't summarize or explain every single thing. It points to important pieces and elaborates on them. If there's an obvious gap with a missing piece or a big mess in one corner, it briefly explains why so that the tour doesn't get distracted staring and wondering and then focuses on the good stuff.

8fillstheheart's example is great. If there's a particular interest in an academic subject or job, then I think that's an easy thing to highlight in the letter. Kid has a deep interest in _____ and here's an anecdote about that. Here's her great personality traits that lead to her interest in/success with that. You can see it in this coursework and this extracurricular and this award. Here's something one of her mentors (not one you used for the recommenders) said about her devotion to it. 

But sometimes there's not one big singular interest and the story you want to tell is that the kid is well-rounded or the kid is super organized or the kid is incredibly creative in a variety of ways or the kid is an amazing, kind leader. A general trait. Again, same approach. Here's the kid's best traits. Here's examples of where you see them - in the transcript, the EC's, etc. but also things that would not show up in the application if you didn't put them in the letter.

It's good to sit down with your student before you do the whole thing and make sure that all your pieces are 1) telling the story you want and 2) not repetitive. So for 1), it's like, if you realize that the kid's interest in something doesn't shine with the transcript and EC's and recommending letters, then maybe you decide they should write their essay about it or that you really have to highlight it in the counselor letter. And for 2), that's more like, if you realize, wait, the recommender, all the EC's, the essay, and the counselor letter all discuss the same thing so maybe we should think about tweaking the essay or the counselor letter so the student doesn't look like they only did and care about one single thing. You especially don't want to use an anecdote in the counselor letter that's the focus of the essay.

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I discussed the impact of being a dual national on his worldview, how he directed his own education to meet his goals, and how he mentored others in a math, music, and badminton. 

I have wanted him to be a holistic real person, not just numbers, so I attacked areas that I thought were important to him as a deeply human individual. 

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Thanks, all.  This is helpful!
 

Dd’s resume shows leadership (soccer team captain), community service, part-time job , etc.  She has done 2 selective science programs and just got into a medical shadowing program.  It all seems pretty self-explanatory, and I figure she will write about some of this when answering short answer questions.

Her test scores and transcripts look good. However, the course descriptions are very brief - 1 line each, plus a reading list for lit courses.  Math and science were textbooks with labs done at a co-op. DE courses.  No special providers.  I don’t believe pages and pages of this kind of info will help her much.

So I am thinking of using her counselor letter to go more in depth about her homeschooling and describe some of her assignments and projects - showing how she has challenged herself.  I also want to weave in some info about the skills she’s developed as 2nd oldest in a large family and also touch on her personality.  My rough draft is about a page and a half.

She is applying for some competitive scholarships, and I really want to show her as a strong student.  Does this approach sound okay?

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I think you are off to a great start.  And it's a good idea to get an early start.  My DH and I edited and re-edited our counselor letter so many times, when it was finally submitted my DH said, "I need a new hobby."  

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On 7/5/2021 at 7:23 PM, JazzyMom said:

So with the complete college application packet, all of the pieces (application, essay, resume, letters of rec, transcript, course descriptions, counselor letter) work *together* to tell a complete story, correct?

So the counselor letter should not rehash or summarize info from the transcript, resume, etc.  And there’s no need for a laundry list of activities in her essay.  Is that right?

No laundry list of activities in the essay. That already exists in the activities section and would be a missed opportunity to offer information that doesn't appear elsewhere. 

The counselor letter should not summarize what is in the student section, but might amplify it. It's also a place to provide info the student didn't have a place for or know how to express. 

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On 7/6/2021 at 9:40 PM, JazzyMom said:

Thanks, all.  This is helpful!
 

Dd’s resume shows leadership (soccer team captain), community service, part-time job , etc.  She has done 2 selective science programs and just got into a medical shadowing program.  It all seems pretty self-explanatory, and I figure she will write about some of this when answering short answer questions.

Her test scores and transcripts look good. However, the course descriptions are very brief - 1 line each, plus a reading list for lit courses.  Math and science were textbooks with labs done at a co-op. DE courses.  No special providers.  I don’t believe pages and pages of this kind of info will help her much.

So I am thinking of using her counselor letter to go more in depth about her homeschooling and describe some of her assignments and projects - showing how she has challenged herself.  I also want to weave in some info about the skills she’s developed as 2nd oldest in a large family and also touch on her personality.  My rough draft is about a page and a half.

She is applying for some competitive scholarships, and I really want to show her as a strong student.  Does this approach sound okay?

You could also split some of the info about homeschooling into a school profile document. Then use the counselor recommendation to dwell on her personal characteristics. 

I think of the profile as the what and how document. What did the school setting look like. 

The recommendation is pulling back the curtain to show more of the student within the setting. 

That said, reading a homeschool application is different than an app from a public or private school student. The reader won't be comparing multiple students from the same school or evaluating if the homeschool student took all the AP courses the school offered. So if it feels right to combine into one document, that is ok.

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