Have you been asked to provide a "parent brag sheet" for your child's guidance counselor? Have you heard of other parents completing them and are wondering if they're required for college applications? Parent brag sheets are becoming more popular, but many parents don't get much guidance on how to complete them. We created this guide to explain what a parent brag sheet is and what they're used for. We also go over common parent brag sheet example questions and explain how to answer them.
What Is a Parent Brag Sheet? What Do You Need One For?
A parent brag sheet is a form you may be asked to complete for your child's guidance counselor. Guidance counselors are sometimes asked to supply letters of recommendation for students applying to college. Because it's not unusual for counselors to be assigned dozens, or even hundreds of students, they understandably may not know certain students well enough to write an in-depth letter, especially if they only meet with students twice a year or so.
The parent brag sheet is a way for the student's parent to highlight their child's strengths so the counselor can include an honest, in-depth, and strong recommendation letter with the student's college applications.
When students ask teachers for letters of recommendation, we recommend they write their own brag sheets to give teachers ideas of the skills and personality characteristics they might highlight. A parent brag sheet is the same, except the parent writes it about their child. Some counselors feel that parents can provide a more detailed analysis of their child than the student can provide him/herself.
It's important to note that you may not be asked to write a parent brag sheet; many parents aren't. Many colleges don't require counselor letters of recommendation, and some high school counselors either ask students to compose their own brag sheets or complete the letter of recommendation without a brag sheet. If you're not asked to write a parent brag sheet for college recommendations, don't worry. It won't negatively impact your student's applications.
What Does a Parent Brag Sheet Include?
Not sure how to write a parent brag sheet for college? The parent brag sheet typically consists of several short-answer questions you'll complete. The number of questions varies, but it's often around five to ten. The questions will ask about different aspects of your child's personality and accomplishments, and you should expect to spend at least 30 minutes on it.
4 Tips for a Standout Parent Brag Sheet for College
Many times, parents aren't given a lot of direction on how to fill out the parent brag sheet, but we've got you covered! Here are four tips to follow to ensure you're creating the strongest brag sheet for your child.
#1: Give Specific Examples to Support Your Statements
The absolute best way to create a strong parent brag sheet is to back up your assertions with examples. Even if you gush throughout your brag sheet over how smart and hardworking your child is, if you don't have any examples to support those claims, counselors likely won't include them in their letter. They'll only write about things they're confident are true, so they need evidence. So, for every positive attribute you state, give an example to back it up. So, if you state that your daughter is a math whiz, include things like math awards she's won, grades in math classes, scores from the math sections of the SAT/ACT, etc.
#2: Aim for a Positive, but Honest, Tone
Sometimes parents struggle to know what tone to strike with the parent brag sheet. They either feel like they need to prove their child is the most amazing high school student to ever walk the earth, or they feel compelled to give the "warts and all" story and open up about times their child has been lazy/dishonest/etc. Don't go for either of these extremes. You want to keep things honest and not exaggerate accomplishments, but you also aren't required to mention that time your child snuck out of the house to see a concert on a school night. You can be glowing (it's expected, in fact, for something called a "brag sheet"), but just make sure all your claims are rooted in fact. Again, this is why examples are so helpful.
#3: Talk to Your Child About What to Include
You may be bursting to tell everyone about your son's amazing piano playing, but he may be focusing his application on his strong writing skills because he wants to be a journalist. It's certainly not bad to be an aspiring journalist who also plays the piano beautifully, but colleges are more impressed by a strong spike in one area than being well-rounded in many different areas. This means that applications are stronger when they have a common theme running through them, particularly if it ties into a future career. You want the counselor's letter to be part of that theme, which might affect what you choose to discuss in certain responses. Talk to your child about the main things they'd like you to include so that their counselor's letter of recommendation highlights the skills and attributes that'll give their application the biggest boost.
#4: Keep It Concise
Counselors are reading dozens, often hundreds, of these brag sheets, so don't hand them a novel. Making your answers clear and concise is the best way to ensure the counselor reads all the information and gets your main points. A few sentences is enough to answer most questions, and none of your answers should be much more than a paragraph.
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High School Parent Brag Sheet Example Questions
Different counselors will create different brag sheet forms, but all will ask about the student's accomplishments, academic habits, and personal strengths. Below are 12 common questions included in high school parent brag sheet examples, as well as an explanation of what the counselor is looking for and what you should include in each of your responses.
#1: What has been your student's greatest accomplishment in high school?
- This can be related to academics, such as an A in a math class they struggled with or winning a prestigious academic competition, but it doesn't need to. For example, if your child began high school struggling with time management but has made great strides, that's also a great example.
#2: Which three adjectives best describe your student?
- For this question, you're often asked to state the adjective, then explain why you chose it. Include specific examples whenever possible to explain your reasoning. For example, if you chose the adjective "mature" you could give an example of your child offering to take on additional chores when you had to stay late for work, for taking care of younger siblings, for helping friends solve disagreements, etc.
#3: Are there any circumstances that have affected your student's education or personal experiences?
- Colleges really do try to be as fair as possible during the admissions process, so if something happened beyond your child's control that negatively impacted them, they want to know about it so they can take it into account. Potential examples can include parents divorcing, a serious illness, the death of someone close to the student, etc. To answer this question, state the event, the impact it had on the student (such as a dip in grades or prolonged absence from school), and (if applicable) progress they've made since then, such as grades going back up. If this question isn't applicable to your student (and it won't be for most), feel free to write N/A and move on.
#4: What makes your student unique?
- This doesn't need to be something earth-shattering; the question is more asking for a special attribute of your child. It could be that you've never had to tell them to do their homework, that they are incredibly creative, that they've known since they were four-years-old that they wanted to be an astronaut, etc. Give the trait, then add a few sentences of explanation to why it is important to your child's character.
#5: What activities does your student enjoy?
- This question is to help the counselor learn about your child's extracurricular activities, especially ones outside of school they might not know about. List the three or so activities your child cares most about. For each, include how long they've been involved and some highlights of their involvement (such as awards won, a favorite memory, etc.) so the counselor gets a full picture of your child's interests and commitment.
#6: What activity or topic is your student most passionate about?
- Colleges are fascinated by applicants' passions, and students with a strong passion often have a better chance at getting into their dream school. Does your child love taking photos? Reading about ancient history? Designing websites? Learning about chemistry? Being part of the school soccer team? Be sure to give some examples of how they've committed to their passion, such as taking classes, joining clubs, learning on their own, etc.
#7: What do you believe is your student's greatest strength?
- There are a lot of options here, so choose the one(s) you think describes your student best. You might mention creativity, optimism, problem-solving, perseverance, organization, discipline, ability to get along with everyone, etc. You could also discuss more concrete skills like exceptional math or writing abilities, athletic talent, etc. Whatever you choose, be sure to include at least one example to back up your assertion.
#8: What's an example where your student demonstrated leadership?
- This can be at school, during an extracurricular, or at home. Be sure to explain how your child took charge and what the positive outcome was. For example, "Jenna loved being part of her school's Outdoors Club because it allowed her to get more familiar with nature and be around peers with similar interests. However, she wanted more opportunities for group trips, so she took it upon herself to contact 8 outdoor experience tour operators and arrange discounted rates for the group. As a result, she became the club's first community liaison. Since then the club has doubled in size, and they organize an outing at least once a month."
#9: What are your student's career aspirations?
- Knowing your child's potential career goals can make it easier for the counselor to create a theme for their letter of rec. For example, if your child wants to become a psychiatrist, the counselor might use the letter to highlight the student's STEM skills and willingness to help other students with homework and group projects. This doesn't need to be a detailed answer; a brief overview of your child's career goals is enough. If they don't have a career path locked down yet, that's perfectly fine. In that case, you'd mention general subject interests they have, like history or math.
#10: How has your student matured since beginning high school?
- Colleges love seeing personal growth, and they understand that many high school students are quite different people as seniors than they were as freshmen. Has your child gotten better with time management? Become more resilient to setbacks? Begun to ask teachers for help when they don't understand something? This is also a great opportunity to discuss weaker parts of your child's application (such as lower grades or a lack of extracurriculars freshman year) and give examples of how far they've come since then.
#11: How does your student react to setbacks?
- Everyone is going to face setbacks throughout their life, and colleges want to admit students they're confident can roll with the punches. For this question, you'll want to give one or more examples of your child overcoming a setback (such as not making a sports team, getting a low grade on a test or in a class, having plans cancelled because of COVID-19, etc.). Describe how they made the best of things and the skills they use to bounce back from low points.
#12: Is there any additional information you'd like to share about your student?
- Most parents won't have anything to add here, but it's a final chance to mention anything you didn't include in your other answers. If there's something about your child you think is important for the school counselor to know when writing their letter of recommendation, mention it here.
Summary: Parent Brag Sheet for College Recommendations
When their child begins their senior year of high school, many parents are asked to complete a parent brag sheet for college recommendations. This brag sheet is used by the student's guidance counselor to write a letter of recommendation or counselor recommendation form some colleges require. Expect to answer about 5-10 questions; high school parent brag sheet example questions are discussed just above this section of the article. When completing your parent brag sheet, remember to always include examples, strike a positive but honest tone, discuss with your child what to include, and keep your answers to roughly a paragraph.
College admissions get more and more competitive every year, so you want to present yourself with the best application you can. Read about how to build a versatile college application here.
For more on the ins and outs of applying to college, check out this full step by step guide! It goes over everything from choosing your high school classes to brainstorming personal ideas.
Did you know that a couple schools ask for recommendations from peers, and some students send them along as supplements? Read the complete guide to peer recommendations here.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.