The 5 Most Important Connections You Need as a High School Senior & How to Make Them

As fall rolls around, high school seniors across the country are gearing up for their busiest semester yet: the season of college applications. Don’t get me wrong, senior year is definitely fun – it’s a year of firsts and lasts that you will remember for the rest of your life. But with every ounce of fun comes important considerations and decisions regarding the future. Finding the right college and securing your spot as a member of their Class of 2017 is critical as it will be your home for the next four years of your life.

How do you secure a spot at your dream college? There may not be an exact formula, but one way to increase your chances is simply to network. We know that pre-collegiettes are extremely driven and always eager to make the most of life, so we’ve put together this guide to help you improve your admission chances through making five important connections during your college application process.

1. Your High School Guidance Counselor

Hopefully you have been told by this point that your high school guidance counselor is responsible for writing one of your letters of recommendation. With that said, forging a deep, well-rounded relationship with your guidance counselor is one of the best things you can do for yourself. How might you go about doing this? Make sure to frequently stop by her office and say hi, fill her in on any and all occurrences related to the college application process as well as your academic career, and don’t forget to let your personality shine through! As Mindy Popp, managing director and principal consultant at Popp & Associates, a college counseling service in Wellesley, MA, emphasizes, “The better your guidance counselor knows you, the better your letter will be.”

Sora Hwang, a second year student at Northeastern, recalls, “Throughout high school, I visited my guidance counselor for various reasons, whether I actually needed to discuss something or just catch up. This helped us build an actual relationship where he knew me on a personal level, so whatever he wrote in my recommendation for college wasn’t some generic statement, but something that actually fit me.”

Don’t know how to initiate a meeting with your guidance counselor? Start by sending her a quick email reminding her who you are and asking if she has any time available for a meeting about your academic future. Make sure to express that you recognize how busy her schedule is this time of year. If she doesn’t get back to you over email, try stopping by the guidance offices before or after school and chatting with the guidance department secretary. She should be able to steer you in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to make your presence known in the guidance department, but by all means try not to spend every waking hour camped outside your counselor’s office.

Judi Robinovitz, Certified Educational Planner and Founder of Score At The Top in Boca Raton, Florida, warns, “Making this connection might be difficult at a large high school where guidance counselors work with hundreds of kids on a daily basis, but students should try hard to make the connection nevertheless.” Set yourself apart from your peers and focus on cultivating a relationship that will be beneficial during the application process as well as in your academic future.

2. Academic Teachers

In terms of academic letters of recommendation, most universities ask for two written by junior or senior teachers of core curriculum classes (think math, science, English, history, and world language). Robinovitz says, “Senior high school students should have previously made connections with some of their junior year academic teachers. Students are responsible for making sure these teachers know them well enough to craft a stellar letter of recommendation.”

How should you decide which teachers to reach out to? Popp suggests approaching a teacher that you not only have a good relationship with, but in whose class you received good grades. Robinovitz adds that it should be a teacher who really knows you well, is aware of how hard you work, and recognizes your level of intellectual curiosity. She emphasizes that it should be natural relationship, preferably in a class that is relevant to what you plan to study.

Kate Steele, a junior at Boston College, shares, “When considering which of my high school teachers to ask for a letter of recommendation, I knew I wanted to ask my AP English Language and Composition teacher. I loved writing and literature, knew that I wanted to study it in college, and had formed a close bond with that teacher. I knew that she would not only be willing to write a letter, but would be able to include details about both my academic and personal qualities.”

When it comes to approaching these teachers, face-to-face communication is the best option. Popp explains, “Always try to approach the teacher in person. If finding a time to meet with or speak to your teacher proves difficult, email is a second option, but there eventually needs to be an in-person component.”

And to make things a bit easier for your teachers, Robinovitz shared some great advice: “Make sure to send the teacher a bullet point list of inspirational moments in his/her class. This will help them to write a strong, anecdotal letter that will stand out amidst letters with more general claims.” And while you’re at it, include your college preferences (in terms of location, size, majors, or other factors), what careers you find the most appealing, and what extra-curricular activities you are the most dedicated to.

Be sure to exercise those thank-you note-writing skills that you have honed throughout your life. These teachers are going above and beyond their jobs to help you out, so be sure to genuinely thank them.