Note: This is the final installment of a series entitled, “The Top Five Mistakes Students Make When Applying to College”. To get your free copy of the full report click here.
One of the least appreciated components of the college application is the recommendation from a teacher or counselor, and much of that is due to students not understanding the purpose and power of the recommendation letter. Instead they may view the recommendation as an inconvenience and unfortunately treat it accordingly, whether by rushing the recommender, by poorly inviting the teacher or counselor to write a letter, or by altogether avoiding applications with recommendations.
The student’s underestimation of the recommendation letter actually makes sense if you consider how different asking for a recommendation is from the normal transactions between a student and adult. The dynamic has shifted from the teacher assigning the work to now the student requesting the teacher to produce work. Further, once the student asks for the recommendation, the process is out of his or her hands and shifts to the teacher’s communication with the school. Because of the discomfort (or incompetence) that many students feel in asking for a teacher or counselor recommendation, many will undermine what could be one of the strongest parts of their application.
Students error when they fail to plan ahead or to consider the schedule of the teacher or counselor when making the request Too often the request is made with little time left until a deadline, forcing the recommender into a tight spot when having to support the application of someone going to college. Consider the recommendation that is written over a period time and reviewed before sendoff to that of the letter thrown together the day before it’s due.
Just as harmful to the quality of the teacher or counselor recommendation is a poorly presented request. A surprising number of students negatively affect their chances of getting a great recommendation – one that the teacher would have be delighted to write – by haphazardly presenting the request to the adult. Some students affect a sense of entitlement and neglect manners and etiquette because the adult (typically the counselor) is required to write one as part of their job. Others are either shy about the interaction a request demands or don’t to impose on the recommender, in both cases missing out on an opportunity to receive a glowing letter on the student’s behalf.
Lastly, a big mistake that some students make is shying away from applications that require a teacher recommendation in order to lessen the amount of work required to apply. In effect, the student is opting to reduce themselves to a series of data instead of doing the work to present the fullest picture of who they are as a person and what sort of student they will be on campus.
In sum, students don’t realize the impact a good recommendation has on their applications and that they truly can affect the quality of the recommendation by how they present the request!
Click here to read the full report: “The Top Five Mistakes Students Make When Applying to College”