|By hopingtohelp on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 09:02 am: Edit|
My son is trying to decide among three different teachers for his ED recommendation (he has already chosen another one for one letter). In the past for summer programs, etc., he has asked each of these three teachers for letters, so we are somewhat familiar with the way they write.
My son feels most connected to Teacher A; he really "shone" in her class junior year, was clearly the leader in a variety of ways. Teacher A wrote him a letter for another program; it was very positive and reflected not only his intelligence but his leadership skills. What worries me is that this teacher's writing is, I would say, lackluster, with eliptical comments that are very positive but don't stick in your mind or tell you much about my son. I know for a fact that she thinks tremendously highly of him, but her ability to convey this on paper is not terribly strong IMNSHO.
Teacher B writes very warmly and, in his class, my son was in an election simulation in which he played an historical figure, complete with long speeches in a regional accent, and campaigned so hard that he won even though this historical figure was anathema to most everyone in the class, which would, I think, make a good anecdote for a recommendation (not the way I just told it!). Although my son feels he was less of a star in that teacher's class, this teacher writes a letter that sounds really glowing and personable and like, "I LOVE this kid!"
Teacher C also writes an excellent letter but knew my son as a sophomore; they have kept in touch and she wrote a glowing and strongly written rec for him last summer, which I thought was the best of the bunch (and kept on my fridge for six months). But my son feels he has matured greatly since sophomore year and worries her rec won't reflect that. Also, Teachers A and B were for AP courses.
Naturally, as mom I don't want to steer him wrong, and I want to trust his instincts, but I am worried about Teacher A, whom he favors for the letter, because of the blah quality of her writing. He will be giving the teacher he chooses a brief list of anecdotes, reminding him/her of his intellectual curiosity and classroom leadership skills. Any advice on which teacher to choose or how to help ensure that the letter will not only be positive but lively?
|By Roger (Roger) on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 06:34 pm: Edit|
Assuming that your son is applying to very selective colleges (Ivies or similar), the quality of the recommendation is pretty important. IMO, I'd lean toward the teacher that could write a great rec (C) vs. the poor writer (A). A bland, barely adequate rec from Teacher A probably won't destroy his chances, but a lively, interesting one from C might help more. He should probably spend some time with C to bring her up to speed on what's been going on in his life.
One approach that we took when my daughter was doing apps: she rotated the recs among several teachers. Like you, we had some choice dilemmas after the first "obvious" one (good writer who really liked her), so she had several different teachers do them for various schools. This way, she didn't put all of her eggs in one basket - if the teacher turned out to be a terrible rec writer, or was harboring a secret grudge, all of her apps wouldn't be torpedoed.
|By Dave Berry on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 07:39 pm: Edit|
Let me muddy the waters here. I recommend going with Teacher B. He already has some great personal experience with your son plus, if your son will share his anecdotes with him, that will ice the cake.
Admissions officers love anecdotal evidence. Teacher B will add the new data to his existing archive of postive perspective on your son and create a superb blend of advocation. Avoid Teacher A. There's no room for recs that yawn. Teacher C is an outside possibility if your son can bring her up to speed on his latest accomplishments. However, she may be a bit short on recent first-hand experiences with him.
There's no substitute for genuine enthusiasm in a rec, NOT feigned enthusiasm. Somehow, admissions types can smell the difference. Good luck to your son!
|By David Hawsey on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 09:33 pm: Edit|
No matter what, all admissions officers will look for one thing most of all: consistency. No matter how well or poorly a teacher writes about your kid, if the transcript, standardized test scores and performance in that teacher's subject do not line up with each other, the best-written rec can mean nothing if the supporting info does not justify the glowing evaluation.
If I see one more rec that sounds like this:
"In my 32 years of teaching English, she/he is my finest student",
and then the SAT/ACT verbal scores are suspect, or the student's essay is average, or the transcripts show inconsitency, I'll rip out what's left of my hair!
|By hopingtohelp on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 09:50 pm: Edit|
Thanks, Roger and Dave, for all your suggestions; now we have some thinking to do! It's unfortunate when you know a teacher is enthusiastic -- Teacher A has been encouraging my son to give her the recommendation forms -- and yet her writing is insipid. David, I'm glad to say my son's numbers, etc. are all topnotch, and he is a lively writer. Obviously the competition out there is tough, though! We'll see...
|By Roger (Roger) on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 12:20 pm: Edit|
Sorry if I misinterpreted your message, HTH, but I figured that "B" was a sure thing and that you were deciding between "A" and "C" for the second rec.
Also, consider the possibility of an extra rec from, say, a boss at work or a volunteer coordinator, etc. - if the individual can write well, and speak to the unique capabilities of your son, it would be worth including. Some schools provide specific forms for this; with the others, you can simply include the extra rec in your package. An extra rec shouldn't hurt at any school if it is relevant and well-written. (Just avoid application-padders like recs from prominent invididuals who don't really know your son.)
|By Dadster on Wednesday, September 12, 2001 - 09:04 am: Edit|
Would an extra recommendation from a college prof that taught a summer program my son attended be a good idea?
|By Dave Berry on Wednesday, September 12, 2001 - 08:19 pm: Edit|
As I have said before here on the forum, recommendations are among the most misunderstood and underestimated tools in the applicant's arsenal. A key extra recommendation can sometimes give a fence-sitting applicant enough inertia to fall over into the admit pile.
What makes an extra recommendation worth sending? First, extraordinary knowledge of the candidate. The rec writer HAS to know about whom s/he's writing. Admissions staffers can smell B.S. a mile away. There has to be an essence of real knowledge in the rec.
Second, the rec writer has to know how to write. It does the applicant little benefit for the extra rec to say something like, "Dave expresses himself as good as anyone I've known." Crisp, pertinent narrative will draw welcome sighs of relief from jaded app readers used to the endless rhetoric of typical boilerplate references.
Finally, my favorite word: anecdotes. The rec writer has to cite particular instances of the applicant's real-world performance in the areas of excellence the writer is claiming. If the writer states, "Dave's writing skills are as strong as most accomplished journalists," then s/he better be prepared to tell exactly what that means in practical terms. Making claims is easy; backing them up takes precision.
Summer-program-prof recs are a good source IF they meet the above conditions. My experience shows that most profs can write good--er, I mean well. :-) They can also probably cite some interesting anecdotes about the applicant. The problem, however, is that sometimes the prof doesn't really know the applicant all that well. If so, it can show. Just make sure that your son spent some reasonable time getting to know the prof so that a sense of relationship shines through in the rec.
|By anonamom on Thursday, September 13, 2001 - 09:48 am: Edit|
Is there any possibility that your son can ask the teacher directly but tactfully and discreetly if she can beef up the writing? Explain that competition has created a situation where effusive recommendations are the norm so that your son will need one at least equally compelling. Maybe he can even offer specific suggestions pointing out where there's room for improvement or reminding her of anecdotes she can use.
Also, I have been warned that recommenders should be current, that going back to sophomore year is a contingency that should be avoided if possible, chiefly for the reasons your son cited.
In my experience, the most important thing is for the teacher's enthusiasm to come through, this can overcome grammar and punctuational deficiencies (to a point.)
|By Roger (Roger) on Friday, September 14, 2001 - 12:51 pm: Edit|
Good point, anonamom. If "A" can write a letter that conveys some great information about the student, the grammar detail may be less important. I guess the teacher's personality would be critical, too. Some teachers might react well to suggestions like, "Do you think you could mention the time that I ...?" Others might not.
I think it really comes down to who can express some unique and interesting knowledge of the student. Punctuation, recency (within reason), etc. may well be secondary to the ability to paint a compelling picture of an eager learner with lots of talent.
|By Cubby on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 08:45 pm: Edit|
I heard about a kid who got recommendation letters from senators from 50 states. Do you think this hurt him, because clearly they didn't all know him, or helped him just because of effort and originality?
I think it's kind of dumb myself. Better to rack up some community service hours than waste time sending out form letters...
|By Dadster on Thursday, October 11, 2001 - 11:02 am: Edit|
Cubby, my guess is that at the most selective colleges this kind of grandstanding would almost certainly backfire. Admissions officers don't like files stuffed with irrelevant items, and recommendations from a group of strangers, however important, fall into the irrelevant category.
At a college a tier or two down, it might draw attention to an applicant, although I would still consider it to be risky. A lesser school might be a bit more flattered by the effort and attention, while the top schools are more used to applicants who will try anything to get in.
Go with the community service - even if it doesn't give a mega-boost to your college admissions chances, you'll be helping a good cause.
|By Sammy on Thursday, January 09, 2003 - 05:55 pm: Edit|
One of my friends has wrote a letter of recommendation for a scholarship and she is saying that the teacher wrote it, that is not true. Which she told in front of a parent, another student, and myself. Besides that she also lied in the letter saying she did things she really has not done. I really do not want to get her in trouble but i do not want to see her get a scholarship that she does not deserve. Can anyone please help me and tell me what the right thing to do is in this situation. Also what would happen if someone would find out that she did this? Thank You.
|By Sonicbill1 (Sonicbill1) on Thursday, January 09, 2003 - 10:11 pm: Edit|
I don't think you should rat on her, but sit her down and knock some sense into her. Tell her that what she did is fraud, and she could be prosecuted for it.
"I really do not want to get her in trouble but i do not want to see her get a scholarship that she does not deserve."
Does anyone else find this line a little unsettling? It conveys to me that you are worried that she will get a scholarship that you think is entitled to you.
Simply tell her how you feel. If this doesn't force her to withdraw her recommendation, then tell her you want nothing to do with it when someone finds out.
|By Dadster on Friday, January 10, 2003 - 09:05 pm: Edit|
Sounds like a friend to avoid... clearly, this student lacks integrity. You don't have to be the scholarship police, but you don't have to hang out with this person either.
|By Filo895 (Filo895) on Sunday, January 12, 2003 - 08:38 am: Edit|
My daughter is a Junior, and I have a question about Teacher Recommendations. Many colleges ask for two from academic teachers. If she has a third teacher write her a recommendation (her drama teacher), should she give the teacher a recommendation form, or should the drama teacher just write a letter? Thanks.
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Thursday, January 30, 2003 - 07:58 pm: Edit|
"...just write a letter?"
Since when did writing a letter filled with sincere praise and recommendation of a student become second fiddle to a form with boxes to be checked off?
There may well be a college out there whose admissions committee is too busy to read narrative letters of recommendation---but, just personally, I would not want to attend such a place.
My daughters had only narrative letters of recommendation written for them (no forms) and were accepted into top tier schools--but I have been told elsewhere on these forums that this is merely anecdotal evidence...and might not work for everyone.
If you sat on an admissions committee, which might impress you more favorably?
|By momma1 on Saturday, February 01, 2003 - 11:52 pm: Edit|
My daughter is very close with a teacher that she had in 9th grade, has this year (11th grade), and will have next year. We would like her to write a recommendation, but the classes she taught in 9th &12th are Torah(Bible) courses (the 11th is Jewish History.) However, she is an excellent writer, and truly knows my daughter... what do you think?
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Sunday, February 02, 2003 - 08:40 am: Edit|
I could imagine that essays and recommendations that center on religious issues *could* have a negative impact on certain people--especially if they don't happen to share those views. Certainly few people sitting on admission boards would admit to bias of any kind... but you will be always be left wondering.
If your daughter is applying to Yeshiva University or some college with similar demographics... well...go for it with gusto! If your well-developed radar senses far different signals at a particular college... you might ask the favorite teacher to tone down the religious aspect a few notches. Also possibly worth noting: “Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy” might sound a bit more familiar to some ears than “Torah”---if you catch my drift.
Speak to the teacher yourself. I'd bet that she has written quite a few recommendations in the past--and is aware of the effect those recommendations had on admissions. Ask and respect her advice—but remain in control.
Heed Dave Berry's advice (above in this thread) about anecdotes.
In a well-written cover letter your daughter sends with the application, one of the many things she might mention would be the general value of Torah studies. I doubt there are too many good Torah scholars that flunk out of college! Explain why. The cover letter introduces the student, her talents, strengths, ambitions, views and goals. My daughters wrote quite long narrative cover letters which were very well received.
Cover letters are probably more valued by smaller liberal arts colleges, but I cannot imagine that a well-written letter hurts one’s chances at any college.
|By momma1 on Sunday, February 02, 2003 - 09:04 am: Edit|
Thanks, Morgan, your advice was great! We've decided to ask the teacher if she could focus on my daughter's 11th grade Jewish History class, a demanding course covering the Jews of Europe and Spain from 0 AD- 1648, especially since my daughter is interested in majoring in History.
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Sunday, February 02, 2003 - 12:24 pm: Edit|
I wrote some additional comments which appear on this forum in a post called "Different Perspectives" which may interest you.
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