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Getting the Best Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation give colleges a second opinion about your high school achievements and a sense of who you are.

Most colleges expect you to ask for letters of recommendation from your counselor and teachers. You need to choose and prepare your recommenders carefully. What they say about you matters.

First, Find Out What the College Requires

The application should clearly state who should complete the recommendation forms. Typically, it's your high school counselor, a few teachers, and possibly your principal. You have a choice of which teachers to ask. These forms usually ask your recommender to rate your academic performance and personal qualities, and add additional comments. Most of the time, colleges provide recommendation forms with their applications, either on paper or online. Application services, like the Common App, provide their own recommendation forms.

Then Zero In On Teachers and Staff Who Know You Well

While this may be obvious, you need to select teachers who like you, have taught you recently, and have shown appreciation for your work. Choosing a teacher simply because he or she is your favorite, however, isn't necessarily a good idea. Consider teachers from different disciplines, such as English and science, who have taught you for at least a semester. Choose those who made thoughtful comments on your work and have noticed how much academic progress you have made.

Give Your Recommenders Info and Materials They Need—and Plenty of Time

Ask your recommenders as early as possible, even during your junior year. Supply them with forms, instructions, and materials at least a month before the submission deadline.

  • Tell them how to submit their recommendation. The submission method should be spelled out in the application. Often, your recommenders can complete and submit the forms online. If not, you will need to print out the forms and give them to your recommenders along with stamped envelopes addressed to the admission office.
  • Supply them with a copy of your transcript (which you can request from your counselor's office) and a short resume of your academic achievements, interests, and goals. Remind them of your accomplishments and progress in their classrooms.
  • Follow up a week before the letters are due to make sure they were sent. And don't forget to say "Thank you!"

Be Careful About Sending Extra Recommendations

Admission counselors have plenty of material about you already, so sending more letters is probably overkill. However, if there is a person who has a unique insight into your abilities, contact the admission office to see if it's okay to send an additional letter. It won't hurt to ask.

What's Next?

For Students Age 18 and Older

Have you received a Personal Invitation to apply for a Student Credit card?

Learn how to qualify for a Personal Invitation to apply for a Student Credit Card


1st Financial Bank believes students who pick colleges wisely will also want to learn how to use credit cards wisely.

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COLLEGEdata Dollars are
points you earn by
completing certain
COLLEGEdata activities

Ways to earn
COLLEGEdata Dollars:

  • Complete your Admissions Profile.
  • Add colleges to your College Choices.
  • Update your Admissions Statuses.
  • Use the College Match tool.

What are COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$)?

COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$) are points you earn by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. The maximum number of CD$ you can redeem is 5000. Once you have earned at least 2500 CD$, you can redeem them for $25, which will be provided to you on a Loyalty Card, and once you earn another 2500 CD$, you can redeem those CD$ for a second $25, which will also be provided to you on a Loyalty Card.

Earn points and redeem them for
U.S. Dollars

Complete certain COLLEGEdata activities (for example, signing up, starting your Admissions Profile, searching for colleges, calculating your chances for admission, searching for scholarships, updating your Profile with your admission decisions). Each activity is worth a specific amount of points (CD$). You can redeem the points you earn for U.S. Dollars that will be issued to you in the form of a 1st Financial Bank USA Loyalty Mastercard®.

How do I earn COLLEGEdata Dollars?

You can earn CD$ by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. As soon as you sign up and activate your COLLEGEdata account, explore COLLEGEdata and begin completing COLLEGEdata activities to earn points.

Here is a full list of COLLEGEdata activities for which you may earn CD$ and the number of CD$ you can earn by completing each activity.*

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Check your CD$ Dashboard at the bottom of the page to view your CD$ balance, find other activities that you can complete to earn CD$, and redeem the CD$ you have earned for U.S. Dollars.