The college application process begins during the fall of your senior year, right? Wrong. From the moment you stepped onto campus as a freshman, you’ve already begun one piece of your application — the letter(s) of recommendation. Over the years, your teachers and counselors get snippets of your personality. The fifteen minutes spent talking with […]
The college application process begins during the fall of your senior year, right? Wrong.
From the moment you stepped onto campus as a freshman, you’ve already begun one piece of your application — the letter(s) of recommendation. Over the years, your teachers and counselors get snippets of your personality. The fifteen minutes spent talking with CB College Counselor Mrs. McClellan in the counselling department or the office hours you never went to all make an enormous impact on how your letter will turn out.
But don’t be afraid! There is almost no possibility that any letter written for you will ruin your chances of attending a specific college. “The letters will either be seen as positive or neutral,” Mrs. McClellan explains. ”If they were to make any impact on your application, it would only help.”
How do you get a good letter of recommendation? The key is to actually talk to your teachers. I get that being the teacher’s pet may not sound like the best way to make friends, but it may be the ticket to getting into your dream college. You don’t need to constantly raise your hand, make awkward conversation, or buy your A Set teacher coffee every morning. Just be a good student, participate, and it will all come naturally.
Keep in mind that waiting until your junior year to start doing these things isn’t your best bet. The earlier a teacher gets to know you, the easier it will be to write your letter of recommendation later on. If you end up having to ask a teacher who you don’t talk to often, don’t get along with, or have only been in their class a few months, don’t be offended if they turn you away. Our teachers are here to help and want colleges to see only the best of you.
“In the past, at my other schools, I’ve said ‘Maybe you should ask someone else, I don’t think I’m the best person to write that,” says Mr. Dave Desmond ’94, a social studies teacher at CB.
“I also emphasize that students should be asking teachers that they know outside of the classroom,” he reiterates. “A teacher that has been on a retreat with you, or is your coach, or is part of a club you’re in is the best choice. I’ve learned that I get to know students far better when they’re part of a co-curricular.”
When it comes time to finally ask for the long awaited letter, asking early is best. Our teachers are busy people! Between lesson plans, club meetings, and grading assignments, they may need more notice before the due date to fit letter writing into their schedules.
For freshmen literature teacher and yearbook and Open Mic coordinator Mrs. Natlia Schorn ’00, starting and completing a letter can take longer than expected. “It usually takes me 1-2 weeks to get these done,” she explains.
Even if you decide to ask a teacher or counselor not involved in as many co-curricular activities, don’t think of it as an excuse to turn in your purple recommendation slips at the last minute. Teachers and counselors still need time to write the best possible letter for you, and if they’re under unnecessary time pressure, it may not turn out the way you were hoping.
This leads me to the scariest aspect of all. The moment you fill out a college application, you sign away your rights to ever read these letters. They fall into the admission abyss, only to be seen by everyone but you. Okay maybe not everyone, but definitely not you. They’re very confidential, and even if you ask to receive a copy of your application after submitting it, the letter wouldn’t be included.
My advice? Participate in class, have fun with your teachers, and do the summer homework! The posted questionnaires are crucial to the writing process and give your teachers and counselors better insight as to who you really are. And please, please don’t wait until the last moment to ask your favorite teacher for a letter. The more time they have to put it together, the better the letter. It’s that simple.