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Guidance Counselor letter & Letter of Recommendation info


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On 6/22/2022 at 10:18 AM, ByGrace3 said:

Commence next round of panic...I didn't even know a "guidance counselor" letter was a thing. What is it?

So are guidance counselor letters along with letters of recommendations requested as part of the common app/university application? What "school reports" are you referring to? Transcript?

What are some suggestions for people to ask for letters of recommendations? Church leaders, piano teacher, coach? Any specific criteria you all use to choose?

Hopefully those with BTDT experience will jump in and help @ByGrace3 with these questions (@8filltheheart, @regentrude@Sebastian (a lady) ?? 😉 )

For letters of recommendation:
It's great if you can get several from different spheres (academics, extracurriculars, and "character") and that are also big/long-term (at least a year, preferably longer) connections between your student and the person writing the letter.

For example: I have written letters of recommendation from the student's "academic sphere", having taught them in the homeschool co-op classes (often, for more than 1 year), for a special program (having been the advisor for several years for that extracurricular activity), and for general character reference (from getting to know the student and their work ethic in co-op classes).

Do make sure that the person who you are asking to write the letter gets a link to (or email copy of) what is being applied for, so they know how to gear the letter -- is it for a special academic program? for a special extracurricular? for a job? for a scholarship? for college application? I have written letters of recommendation for my co-op class students for all of these, and by having a copy of their application, I can make sure I write the letter to include words/phrases and character traits or skills/experience that match what the program is looking for. 

And in case it helps, here are some past threads...

...on Letters of Recommendation, linked on PAGE 1 of the big thread "High School Motherlode #2", pinned at the top of the WTM High School Board:


Letter of Recommendation
Letter of Recommendation etiquette & ? 
Letters of recommendation in high school question (collect in early grades of high school for later college applications?) 
Guidance Counselor Recommendation for high school program? 

...and on Counselor Letter/Common App questions, linked on PAGE 2 of the big thread "College Motherlode", pinned at the top of the WTM College Board:

Application Counselor Letter
Counselor letter (what to include? samples?)
Counselor letter questions (how long? what to include?)
Counselor letter question (vs. school profile — where to put homeschooling info)
Counselor letter question (can I be more creative/use an underlying metaphor throughout?)
Counselor letter: how to address relative weakness? 
Counselor letter: heading, closing, formatting — Oct 28 2017, yvonne
And in conclusion: counselor's letter (stuck on how to end it)
Fronting a counselor letter

Common App: School Profile
Would anyone please share school profile and/or counselor letter?
Common App: School Profile in the Counselor Section and School Philosophy in Student Section (how to break this up?) 
Please help! Common App: school profile, course description questions 
School profile/Common App questions 
Where to submit school profile on Common App? 
Common App: after the school report, next steps 
Repeating yourself on the Common App, when all the info is in the school profile? 

Common App: 
Recommender
Academic references [Recommenders] for Common App
Common App Recommenders 
Need help choosing recommenders 
Common App recommender question

 

On 6/22/2022 at 10:18 AM, ByGrace3 said:

...What do people do without this forum to guide them?!?

Research online? 
Read a book on applying for college?
Ask a BTDT friend?
Talk to the student's public school guidance counselor?
Wing it?
Walk blindly and obliviously through the process and maybe Lady Luck smiles on them? 
😉

Edited by Lori D.
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In my guidance counselor letter, I wrote about my kid's personality, explained what made them tick, and how our personalized home education took this into account and contributed. Since my kids have graduated, I feel comfortable just putting one of my  letters here on the forum, with personal details removed.

Counselor’s letter for DS

I am very happy to have this opportunity to describe DS. He is a talented student with strong intellectual curiosity, great work ethic, and good communication and teamwork skills. He is focused, persistent, and independent. Two of the driving forces in his life have been his passion for sport1 and 2, and his love for literature and writing.

Possibly the biggest contribution to DS’s maturity and development came through his sports. He began practicing Sport1 when he was thirteen, and it helped him develop discipline, focus, and a sense of responsibility. He took training very seriously, wanted to excel and earn his instructor’s respect. When his instructor had to suspend classes for half a year because of military responsibilities, DS took the initiative and organized twice weekly practice meetings at our house where he facilitated training for a group of up to ten students, until the instructor returned. At age fourteen, DS discovered sport2 and found his passion. Sport 2 made him persistent and goal oriented. He is competing at the national level and is traveling to BigCity, 100 miles away, two or three times every week for training. This intense schedule forces him to be organized and resourceful with his time.

DS is an introvert and likes quiet time for thinking and introspection. Through his sport he has found connections and friendships with people of different backgrounds and ages. He is comfortable in group settings and has no difficulty interacting with somebody he meets for the first time. He benefited from these skills when he took his first class outside of a homeschool setting, an English course at XXUniversity in 11th grade.

His choice of a class on myth and folklore as his first college course was no coincidence. From a young age, DS has been loving stories and books, and he has developed a deep love of literature and writing. He is always working on his various creative writing projects, honing his sense for language and storytelling. Writing as a solitary pursuit appeals to his independent nature, but he is also involved in collaborative writing projects with friends. In his job as a customer service specialist at a small company for which he has been working throughout high school, DS is responsible for responding to customer messages; this allowed him to strengthen his written communication skills in a different area.

DS is self-motivated and independently seeks out recourses to learn. He is interested in the physiological and psychological aspects of sport and is thinking of pursuing a degree in Exercise Science or a related field. DS is ready for college. He possesses the time management and study skills to excel academically; he is open and ready for new experiences, viewpoints and people; and he has practical life skills and common sense to make good choices. I am confident that DS will be a great asset to any university.

Edited by regentrude
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This is all so helpful! So much to research, thank you! It all has gotten so real this week...and then yesterday dd got her first recruiting text from a college coach (her #1 pick!) We are excited and nervous and all the things. lol 

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For students who apply through the Common App, they will be able to invite a counselor. For most independent homeschoolers, a parent fills this role.

Once invited, the counselor gets an email from Common App prompting them to create an account as a Counselor. This then gives them access to the areas where school information, transcripts, and counselor recommendations are added. 

Think of the school profile as a document that explains how and why you homeschool. If your student used outside providers like online classes, coops, or dual enrollment, you can list and briefly describe them as Educational Partners. Homeschooling can be very different from family to family, so this is your chance to describe what education looked like in broad terms. (For example, I mentioned that public high school sports were not open to homeschoolers where we lived. I also listed the many places we'd lived during my kids' school years.) 1-2 pages is a good length. 

The transcript is an overview document that lists all the courses the student took, with grades for each. You should list what credit each was worth (1 credit for year long and 0.5 for semester is common, but there are other options.) 

Many homeschoolers find it useful to list all courses, even those taken with outside providers. You should indicate the source for the course if done outside your homeschool. Some people use an asterisk. I chose a superscript code. Ex. LP for Lukeion Project, HCC for Honolulu Community College. The code was spelled out in the footer of the page.

The transcript should also include a grading scale, total credits earned, and gpa. If you weight your gpa, you should explain that practice in your school profile and indicate which classes were weighted. 

It's good to label the transcript as an Official High School Transcript. The name of the person responsible for it and a signature should be included. A digital signature is usually fine. It doesn't usually need to be notarized (This was something done by some homeschoolers in the past, but most colleges don't care.)

1-2 pages is the right length. You should be able to do it in one page. But clarity is more important than sticking to just one page. Homeschoolers often like to do a subject transcript, but colleges often prefer chronological. I do a two page version that is subject organized on one page and chronological on the other.

The counselor recommendation should be about the student as a person. What are their best traits? How have they overcome challenges? What doesn't come across in the basic grade and score info that you want to highlight? Give specifics and show traits in action. 1-2 pages

Course descriptions are also useful. These are brief descriptions (1 paragraph. 3-5 sentences) on each course that appears on the transcript. What did the course include? How and where was it taught? How was it evaluated? You don't need to include quiz scores. You can include a booklist (author and title is usually enough) . Length varies. I can get 4-5 math descriptions on a page, but only 2-3 history or English descriptions, because they have longer booklists. My whole course description document is around 8 pages. 

I highly recommend doing these documents. The admissions reps I talk to universally say they want to have details about what homeschooling looked like for a student. But don't bury the highlights. A full page description on every course, with quiz grades is too much. It may cause the reader to miss what you want to draw attention to. 

This is an article I wrote that has some other details. https://admissionsdecrypted.com/2021/12/06/homeschool-college-admissions/

 

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6 minutes ago, Sebastian (a lady) said:

For students who apply through the Common App, they will be able to invite a counselor. For most independent homeschoolers, a parent fills this role.

Once invited, the counselor gets an email from Common App prompting them to create an account as a Counselor. This then gives them access to the areas where school information, transcripts, and counselor recommendations are added. 

Think of the school profile as a document that explains how and why you homeschool. If your student used outside providers like online classes, coops, or dual enrollment, you can list and briefly describe them as Educational Partners. Homeschooling can be very different from family to family, so this is your chance to describe what education looked like in broad terms. (For example, I mentioned that public high school sports were not open to homeschoolers where we lived. I also listed the many places we'd lived during my kids' school years.) 1-2 pages is a good length. 

The transcript is an overview document that lists all the courses the student took, with grades for each. You should list what credit each was worth (1 credit for year long and 0.5 for semester is common, but there are other options.) 

Many homeschoolers find it useful to list all courses, even those taken with outside providers. You should indicate the source for the course if done outside your homeschool. Some people use an asterisk. I chose a superscript code. Ex. LP for Lukeion Project, HCC for Honolulu Community College. The code was spelled out in the footer of the page.

The transcript should also include a grading scale, total credits earned, and gpa. If you weight your gpa, you should explain that practice in your school profile and indicate which classes were weighted. 

It's good to label the transcript as an Official High School Transcript. The name of the person responsible for it and a signature should be included. A digital signature is usually fine. It doesn't usually need to be notarized (This was something done by some homeschoolers in the past, but most colleges don't care.)

1-2 pages is the right length. You should be able to do it in one page. But clarity is more important than sticking to just one page. Homeschoolers often like to do a subject transcript, but colleges often prefer chronological. I do a two page version that is subject organized on one page and chronological on the other.

The counselor recommendation should be about the student as a person. What are their best traits? How have they overcome challenges? What doesn't come across in the basic grade and score info that you want to highlight? Give specifics and show traits in action. 1-2 pages

Course descriptions are also useful. These are brief descriptions (1 paragraph. 3-5 sentences) on each course that appears on the transcript. What did the course include? How and where was it taught? How was it evaluated? You don't need to include quiz scores. You can include a booklist (author and title is usually enough) . Length varies. I can get 4-5 math descriptions on a page, but only 2-3 history or English descriptions, because they have longer booklists. My whole course description document is around 8 pages. 

I highly recommend doing these documents. The admissions reps I talk to universally say they want to have details about what homeschooling looked like for a student. But don't bury the highlights. A full page description on every course, with quiz grades is too much. It may cause the reader to miss what you want to draw attention to. 

This is an article I wrote that has some other details. https://admissionsdecrypted.com/2021/12/06/homeschool-college-admissions/

 

Thank you! I had always heard course descriptions are only needed if they are requested, is that not true? I have a transcript that got her into college for DE and we have submitted it to coaches for recruiting purposes. Would anyone want to look over it for feedback? 

I have thought a lot about course descriptions -- it sounds like a ton of work but I know our homeschool would stand out with them as well because I know we have done a thorough job, had multiple challenging outsourced classes....I guess I need to get busy. I would like to get all of this done this summer so we can apply in the fall. 

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14 minutes ago, ByGrace3 said:

Thank you! I had always heard course descriptions are only needed if they are requested, is that not true? I have a transcript that got her into college for DE and we have submitted it to coaches for recruiting purposes. Would anyone want to look over it for feedback? 

I have thought a lot about course descriptions -- it sounds like a ton of work but I know our homeschool would stand out with them as well because I know we have done a thorough job, had multiple challenging outsourced classes....I guess I need to get busy. I would like to get all of this done this summer so we can apply in the fall. 

None of the 11 schools my dd applied to wanted lengthy course descriptions, so take a look at the schools your dd is interested in and see what they want.  If she is pursuing an NCAA sport, I think she will need to upload a course description worksheet for each core subject through NCAA.

My dd’s application packet consisted of:

-one page transcript

-one page of course descriptions that was basically a list of courses taken along with texts used and/or vendor name

-one page reading list for literature courses

-two page school report/counselor letter where I outlined our approach to homeschooling, gave details about dd’s high school coursework (basically one paragraph per year hitting the highlights of any projects or outstanding work she’d done), gave some highlights about dd’s skills/character using examples from her activities

-letters of rec from 2 co-op teachers and a volunteer program director

-2 page resume

-personal statement

Dd did get a full ride scholarship to a big state school using the above, but it is not an elite school.  Take a look at the schools she’s interested in and what they expect from homeschoolers.

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2 hours ago, ByGrace3 said:

I have thought a lot about course descriptions -- it sounds like a ton of work but I know our homeschool would stand out with them as well because I know we have done a thorough job, had multiple challenging outsourced classes....I guess I need to get busy. I would like to get all of this done this summer so we can apply in the fall. 

While I think that course descriptions are unnecessary for a school that pretty much accepts all students who have a pulse, they can be valuable if your student applies to selective schools. My main motivation in providing course descriptions was to demonstrate that our homeschool is well organized, the curriculum selected with thought, and that we operate as professional as any school - just in case you hit an admissions person who is unfamiliar with, and skeptical about, homeschooling. That is also why I created a school profile and homeschool philosophy. To show that I have it together.

They aren't that much work - a paragraph for each course, less for courses with a somewhat standardized scope and sequence like "algebra", more for home-designed unusual courses. I wrote long-form one page course descriptions at the end of each semester, summarizing materials used, topics covered, and projects completed, and then whittled them down to a paragraph for the application materials. My course description document is 8 pages. All math fits on one page; the self-designed integrated literature and history courses received a more thorough description, with two on one page. DE classes are just the one-sentence description from the college's course catalog plus instructor's name and textbook, plus a note "detailed syllabi available upon request".

 

Edited by regentrude
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3 hours ago, ByGrace3 said:

Thank you! I had always heard course descriptions are only needed if they are requested, is that not true? I have a transcript that got her into college for DE and we have submitted it to coaches for recruiting purposes. Would anyone want to look over it for feedback? 

I have thought a lot about course descriptions -- it sounds like a ton of work but I know our homeschool would stand out with them as well because I know we have done a thorough job, had multiple challenging outsourced classes....I guess I need to get busy. I would like to get all of this done this summer so we can apply in the fall. 

If a student is applying to selective colleges (schools that admit fewer than 50% of applicants) I think it can be helpful to include course descriptions. I personally hesitate to rely on colleges asking for additional information, especially if they fall into low chance of admissions categories.

Course descriptions can be rather formulaic. I think of them sort of like Mad Libs. Once you write the first one for a math course, for example, the rest of the math descriptions can have a similar format.

 

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4 hours ago, JazzyMom said:

None of the 11 schools my dd applied to wanted lengthy course descriptions, so take a look at the schools your dd is interested in and see what they want.  If she is pursuing an NCAA sport, I think she will need to upload a course description worksheet for each core subject through NCAA.

My dd’s application packet consisted of:

-one page transcript

-one page of course descriptions that was basically a list of courses taken along with texts used and/or vendor name

-one page reading list for literature courses

-two page school report/counselor letter where I outlined our approach to homeschooling, gave details about dd’s high school coursework (basically one paragraph per year hitting the highlights of any projects or outstanding work she’d done), gave some highlights about dd’s skills/character using examples from her activities

-letters of rec from 2 co-op teachers and a volunteer program director

-2 page resume

-personal statement

Dd did get a full ride scholarship to a big state school using the above, but it is not an elite school.  Take a look at the schools she’s interested in and what they expect from homeschoolers.

The course description piece definitely varies by institution. This is an area where a homeschool parent can call admissions, identify themselves as a homeschool parent acting as the school counselor and ask questions about the documentation the school finds helpful when considering an application.

I became an Independent Educational Consultant as my youngest headed to college. I've talked to many college admissions reps and have yet to run into one that didn't want to clarify what they wanted to see in the way of documentation. There was a point when I took copies of transcript and course descriptions to a college fair and showed it to a range of admissions reps to get their response on if it was a useful format or too little/too much. Don't be afraid to just call or email and ask.

 

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4 hours ago, Sebastian (a lady) said:

For students who apply through the Common App, they will be able to invite a counselor. For most independent homeschoolers, a parent fills this role.

Once invited, the counselor gets an email from Common App prompting them to create an account as a Counselor. This then gives them access to the areas where school information, transcripts, and counselor recommendations are added...

I have twice been asked to be a Recommender for co-op class students who were applying via the Common App. SO exciting! The parent was the Administrator/Counselor, and I was able to provide a letter of recommendation as a Teacher. I was given a link to the student's online application, with specific pages I filled out and uploaded a letter of recommendation.

Similar to @regentrude, I gave specific examples to show academic traits (such as writing and thinking skills, discussion, arriving on time, doing all the work and turning it in on time/early, etc). Because I also knew the student not only from co-op classes, but more broadly from the homeschool group, I was also able to include specific examples of leadership, responsibility, etc. through their participation in things like Student Council, sports, community youth theater, or even DE.

 

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A related question: if we use a cover school, do I have to use their offered counselor letter? Seems dumb to have someone who has never met my kid write a letter from a list of info I send instead of having me do it. 

 

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  • Lori D. changed the title to Guidance Counselor letter & Letter of Recommendation info
On 6/24/2022 at 1:07 PM, ScoutTN said:

A related question: if we use a cover school, do I have to use their offered counselor letter? Seems dumb to have someone who has never met my kid write a letter from a list of info I send instead of having me do it. 

 

Essentially only one person can be the counselor of record. Some cover/umbrella schools provide this service or even require it, others don't or leave it up to you. But you have to work out who is doing it because only one person gets invited and has the account. If it's the school, then they'll likely upload a school profile to contextualize their rules and guidance level for the colleges. But sometimes they'll work with you and just copy paste what you've said about your kid. If it's you, then that doesn't mean you can't upload the transcript they made you. But you'll just also have to go through the steps described above where you're the one answering all the counselor questions. It's not that hard to do. But you'll also need to make a school profile or ask for theirs.

If I had a choice, I'd choose to be the counselor and make it clearer that the student was homeschooled. I think that's the great advantage if you do it right.

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On 6/24/2022 at 1:07 PM, ScoutTN said:

A related question: if we use a cover school, do I have to use their offered counselor letter? Seems dumb to have someone who has never met my kid write a letter from a list of info I send instead of having me do it. 

 

I agree with you what Farrar said. It is a balance between homeschooling by yourself and having a cover school. Most cover schools will choose to be the counselor as that is the role they are doing. They are also the one to send the school profile as it is the school on record.  Some of the advantages- for

my state a least- is that students qualify for the hope scholarship just based on GPA but homeschoolers have to qualify with test scores and GPA or they can qualify retroactively.  So you need to weigh all sides and see what works for you. I did not go with a cover school as my kids don’t need it and I have spent too much time on here and other sites to prepare, for me to have someone else take the credit lol 😂

Edited by Lilaclady
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45 minutes ago, Lilaclady said:

I agree with you what Farrar said. It is a balance between homeschooling by yourself and having a cover school. Most cover schools will choose to be the counselor as that is the role they are doing. They are also the one to send the school profile as it is the school on record.  Some of the advantages- for

my state a least- is that students qualify for the hope scholarship just based on GPA but homeschoolers have to qualify with test scores and GPA or they can qualify retroactively.  So you need to weigh all sides and see what works for you. I did not go with a cover school as my kids don’t need it and I have spent too much time on here and other sites to prepare, for me to have someone else take the credit lol 😂

Thanks for your thoughts. Helpful. Dd easily qualifies for my state’s Hope scholarship and the General Assembly bonus one. 
 

I will call the cover school to clarify. 

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