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Articles / Applying to College / Can Shy Student Ask Counselor for Recommendation?

Feb. 27, 2018

Can Shy Student Ask Counselor for Recommendation?

Question: I am currently a high school junior, but also I've been thinking about what it will be like for the recommendation letter from teacher when submitting the college application. I have no idea who should I ask when the time comes. Due to my personality I am really shy to ask the teacher for help. But it feels normal when I ask for homework problems. So I feel like I will disturb them. Fortunately my counselor seems more friendly. Is it possible to ask the counselor for the recommendation letter?

The vast majority of colleges require at least one teacher recommendation and, often two. Most selective schools want a counselor recommendation as well. You will not be able to substitute a counselor reference for a teacher reference, but if you feel that your counselor knows you better than any of your teachers do, you can always send a counselor reference as an extra, unsolicited letter to any college that does not require a recommendation from your counselor.


Choose a teacher (or teachers) who taught you a major subject in your junior or senior year. It's fine to pick someone who views you as a hard worker or a clever problem solver or an insightful writer, even if you didn't earn an A in the class.

You should also check out this earlier “Ask the Dean" column that offers some tips on how shy students should approach their teachers at recommendation time. https://www.collegeconfidential.com/dean/must-give-teacher-resume-writes-recommendation/

Above all, keep in mind that you will not “disturb" your teachers by asking for a recommendation. Most teachers expect to write at least several (and, often dozens) every year, so just be sure to act appreciative when you make the request and then follow up with a thank-you note afterwards or even a little thank-you gift. (Stuck for an idea? Think chocolates or cookies, not “World's Best Teacher" mugs!)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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