Brag sheets and recommendations

Recommendation forms and letters are common requirements for college and scholarship applications. Many students do not think about recommendations until senior year when they are applying to college. However, recommendations are typically needed for other things such as scholarships, honors programs and even jobs. Therefore, students should be prepared to get the best recommendations possible at all times in their academic careers, not just the senior year. The best recommendations come from someone who can speak about all aspects of a student’s life: academic, activities, and future plans. However, most students do not have a teacher or counselor who knows them this well.

The best way for students to ensure a recommendation writer can write a thorough recommendation is to provide them a brag sheet. The brag sheet gives the reader an insight into parts of the student’s life they may not get to witness themselves. Recommendations can be required from many different types of people including teachers, counselors, coaches, pastors or friends. Most of these people will not know everything a student is doing. Therefore, students should add the following sections, if applicable, to their brag sheet:

  • Extracurricular activities. This includes clubs and organizations, as well as activities such as student government, yearbook, newspaper, music and drama.
  • Organized sports.
  • Volunteer activities.
  • Honors and awards.
  • Employment.
  • Academic information. Students do not need to recreate their transcripts, but should include their grade point average, test scores, and number of Advanced Placement and honors courses taken.
  • Community and church activities.
  • Summer experiences. Students can include things such as mission trips, community service projects, travel programs (not vacations) and summer school programs at colleges or universities.
  • Hobbies. Students should be selective when choosing hobbies because not all hobbies need to be included. Only hobbies that can impress the reader should be included in the brag sheet. Examples of hobbies could be photography, musician, or anything that is done competitively.

Brag sheets should include descriptions of activities (if necessary), leadership positions and the amount of time the student dedicates to the activity. In addition, only high school activities should be included. There is no right or wrong way to create a brag sheet. Therefore, students should be creative and organize it in such a way that makes it attractive and easy to read. One page should be sufficient to include all substantial information about the student.

Students should start putting together their brag sheet as early as the ninth grade. Opportunities that require recommendations can come up at any time, so having a brag sheet readily available will make getting the recommendation easier. In addition, students should continually update their brag sheet as they participate in new activities and receive awards. In addition to providing the brag sheet to recommendation writers, there are other uses:

  • Reference. It is possible to forget something, for example, in the ninth grade. Therefore, students should use the brag sheet as a reference when filling out applications to ensure they do not forget any of the great things they have done in the past.
  • Give to admissions officer. When visiting colleges, students usually have an opportunity to schedule a meeting with an admission officer. These meetings are a great way to learn more about the college, but also to learn about the chances of being admitted. Students can provide their brag sheet to the admissions officer as they are discussing qualifications.
  • Include with your college or scholarship application. Some applications allow students to include addition information, including resumes or brag sheets. While brag sheets should never take the place of the application and students should always answer all of the questions on the application, the brag sheet allows students to provide further detail about activities.

Students should take their time when putting together the brag sheet. In addition, students should not be humble when talking about their accomplishments. In the competitive world of college admissions and scholarships, students must set themselves apart from other applicants. The best way to do this is to brag about everything they have done and include it in the brag sheet. Not only will the students be able to brag about themselves in the application, the recommendation writer with the brag sheet now had the information they need to write a great review. Therefore, students should take their time creating the brag sheet to ensure they include all of the great things they have done.


Scholarships with September deadlines

The deadlines for the scholarships that were on this list have passed. Please visit the current list of September Scholarships

Scholarship Saturday – August 16, 2014

The deadlines for the scholarships that were on this list have passed. To see scholarships that are still accepting applications, visit more recent Scholarship Saturday posts.

The importance of choosing the right safety schools

Originally posted on

Students applying to college are encouraged to choose a good mix of safety, target and reach schools. However, many students do not take the time to find the right safety schools to add to their list. Typically, students add a safety school because they think they have to, but never envision themselves at that particular college. The term “safety school” has received a bad reputation. Many students think of safety schools as the last resort, but they should not be seen this way. The definition of a safety school is one that is very like to admit a student. This does not mean the college is a poor choice with mediocre academic opportunities.

As college admission becomes more competitive, students should ensure they apply to colleges that they are likely to be admitted. While no one envisions being denied from any college, it is always a possibility as admissions committees continue to receive more and more applications every year. Therefore, students should choose the safety schools on their list just as they do the target and reach schools. Safety schools should be colleges that students can see themselves happily attending.

Before students apply to any college, including a safety school, they should research the college. A safety school should be a good match academically, socially and financially. Students should find colleges that meet their desires for a college, including size, location and program offerings. In addition, students should spend the time visiting a college campus to ensure they enjoy the atmosphere of the college and the surrounding community. The research and campus visit could turn a student’s “safety” school into their top choice.

There is no shame in attending a safety school. Just because a college is “easier” to get into does not mean it is a poor choice. A recent Gallop poll suggests that it does not matter where a person attends college. The study suggests that a student’s life in college matters most, meaning their happiness and engagement at the college. Choosing a college is not just about names and prestige. Students need to find a college that is a good match for them. For some students, the best college for them could be a safety school. Therefore, whatever college a student chooses in the end, even if it is a safety school, should be one that the student will enjoy.

Students should take their time choosing safety schools. No one wants to settle for a college, but it can happen if students do not choose safety schools carefully. By settling on a college, a student can end up having an unhappy college experience. Instead, students should thoughtfully choose every college they apply to, including their safety schools.

Safety, target and reach schools


Article originally posted at

As students across the country are narrowing down their list of colleges they will apply to this fall, the terms safety, target, match, and reach are being used. These terms refer to the likelihood of a student being admitted to a particular college. Typically, a student can determine where a college fits in the spectrum by comparing their high school grades and test scores to the academic profile of the institutions. The academic profile of a college or university typically lists the statistics of the previous years’ admissions numbers, such as average grade point average and test scores.

A safety school is one that will most likely accept a student’s application for admission. The student’s high school grades and test scores are well above the school’s averages.

A target or match school is one that will probably accept a student’s application for admission. The student’s high school grades and test scores fall into the middle range when comparing to the institution’s academic profile.

A reach school is a college that a student might have a chance of being accepted, but something in the student’s record is on the low side when comparing to the school’s profile. While a reach school is one a student might have a slight chance of acceptance, a far reach school is one that is very unlikely to offer admission. The student’s academic profile will fall short of the admissions averages when looking at the school’s profile.

Note About Top Colleges and Universities
Many of the top colleges and universities in the United States have very low acceptance rates. For example, Stanford University had the lowest acceptance rate in 2014, accepting only five percent of the students who applied. While many of the students probably met or exceeded the average GPA and test scores of the previous year’s accepted students, many were not admitted. Therefore, top colleges and universities with low acceptance rates should never be considered a safety or target school.

As students are narrowing down their lists, they should place the colleges they are considering into one of these categories. There is no rule that dictates the number of colleges a student should apply to, but most counselors suggest between five and eight colleges. There is also no rule that says students must apply to a specific number of safety, target or reach schools. While a reach school is not required, students should definitely apply to target and safety schools. Reach schools are a dream, and if a student thinks there may be a chance of being admitted, they should apply if they desire.

If students have questions about their chance of being admitted, they should get the opinion of college experts. Guidance counselor and educational consultants should have some insight into the chances of admission. Students can also reach out to admissions offices at the colleges they are considering. The admission counselors at many colleges make the admissions decisions, or at least play a role in the decision process. Students can reach out to admissions offices and ask questions not only about the college, but also about their chances of admission. Some counselor will be more open than others, but most can give some insight into the college admissions process.

The definitions of safety, target and reach schools are typically based on numbers. However, college applicants need to understand that there is no guarantee that a student will be admitted to any school – safety, target or reach. Many colleges and universities use a holistic approach when making admissions decisions. While grade point average and test scores are important, many other items are considered. Admissions committees can use admissions essays, extracurricular and volunteer activities, interviews and many more criteria to determine if they will admit a student or not. This is why it is important for students to apply to multiple colleges to ensure admission to at least one college.