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Taft Today

Taft Today

Labor for Letters of Recommendation

Courtesy of Google Images.
Courtesy of Google Images.

It’s that time of year again, where seniors scramble to get college applications together. A big part of college applications are letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are valuable and a key part of  representing students and all their achievements.

Taft Language and Literature teacher, Dr. Adrienne Carmona, has written about 40 letters each year that she has taught seniors. She said, “Letters of recommendation provide an external perspective on a student’s skills and achievements. It serves as a validation for an individual’s abilities and potential through a first-hand account.”

Letters of recommendation are a way for people to boost a student and share all their amazing qualities. It is meant to display an individual in a high manner. 

Taft Language and Literature teacher Barbara Newton said, “They validate a student’s qualifications, abilities, and accomplishments.” 

Letters of recommendation are not only for demonstrating qualities of students but to show colleges that you are well-rounded as a student. 

“It also acts as a conversation with the rest of the application. It fills the gaps from the transcript, test scores, extracurriculars, and personal statement,” said Newton.

Colleges want to see who they are as a person and a student. They want to know what type of person is applying to college and if they are a good fit. They do this through a number of things. Both academically and non-academically.

Individuals and Societies teacher at Taft, Michael Di Iacova said, “Colleges judge students on both quantitative and qualitative data. While test scores and GPAs could provide an idea of students’ academic capabilities, letters of recommendation provide insight into students’ motivations, aspirations, and personalities.”

Yes, letters of recommendation are important but asking for them and picking the correct person to ask can be difficult. Di Iacova said, “A student should ask for a letter of recommendation in person whenever possible and then follow up with an email.” 

When requesting a letter of recommendation students should always come prepared with “A résumé or ‘brag sheet’ along with a transcript or information about GPA and class rank. In addition to academics, a student should share details about extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, volunteer experiences, etc.,” said Di Iacova.

This should,  “Clearly state the purpose of the letter (e.g., college application, scholarship, job application).” It should also have, “A detailed understanding of the student’s academic history, extracurricular activities, achievements, and career goals. Share goals and aspirations, explaining why they are seeking the recommendation. And provide a copy of relevant achievements and experiences,” said Newton.

Giving these resources allows teachers to demonstrate, “Highlights of character, drive, strengths in and out of class, volunteer work, progress/growth, and any highlights from the brag sheet that are noteworthy,” said Newton.

This process can be stressful not only for students but also teachers. Please be mindful of this when requesting letters of recommendation. Not only should include things listed above but also do it in a timely manner. 

Teachers write anywhere from ten to 50 letters per year and can spend an average of 20 minutes to two hours on one letter. 

Be patient with teachers and respect their time and effort. 

“Writing deliberate and personalized letters of recommendation requires time and effort. Teachers frequently juggle this task with their regular instructional duties, grading, and other responsibilities,” says Newton.

When choosing a teacher to ask for a letter of recommendation, it is important to keep in mind the relationship you’ve had with that teacher or person. Carmona said that time spent on letters and content of letters, “Depends on how long I have known the student. If I have known the student for three years or more, I spend more time versus someone who just needs a letter that I met last month.”

Relationships do really matter and the bonds with those teachers can benefit you and how you are presented by that teacher through the letter.  

There should not be concern or fear of requesting these letters. Teachers are happy to help and enjoy spending time on supporting their students. 

 Dr. Carmona stated, “I always want to make sure I help the student as much as I can.”

“Writing letters of recommendation can be rejuvenating in the middle of the school year, each serving as a reminder of how the work we all do now will continue to be beneficial for students well beyond high school,” said Di Iacova.

Letters of recommendation benefit everyone involved and bring a sense of award, awareness, appreciation, and achievement. All parties involved work hard. Hard work pays off.

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About the Contributor
Lillian Martin, Reporter