Jon Boeckendstedt, the associate vice president for enrollment management and marketing (we need a breath…that title is long!) at DePaul University in Chicago recently wrote a piece for “The Washington Post” about how letters of recommendation are a particularly unfair component of the college admissions process. His assertion largely centers on how not all teachers across the country and around the world can write equally as well. Well that goes without saying! And he believes that not all teachers devote as much time and attention to their letters as do others, creating a lack of parity in the process.
It’s certainly true that not all teachers write on the same level. It’s certainly true that not all teachers meticulously craft letters so as to give their students the best possible case for admission. In fact, a good percentage of teachers simply submit template letters. It’s all too common and an admissions officer knows exactly when a template letter is before their eyes. It’s indeed quite obvious. But the entire premise of Jon Boeckendstedt’s argument is that students ask their teachers for letters of recommendation and then essentially cross their fingers and hope they turn in good ones. And while that might well be what the majority of high school students do, it’s certainly not what we recommend our students at Ivy Coach do.
We help our students help their teachers with their letters of recommendation. And how? We help our students write anecdotes that they share with their teachers (which their teachers so often end up cutting and pasting into their letters since their teachers realize they’re quite good and can help their case for admission). In order to be successful in college admissions — and in life — you’ve got to be proactive. You’ve got to be a hustler. Crossing your fingers won’t do the trick. Letters of recommendation don’t have to be an unfair component of the admissions process, as Jon Boeckendstedt asserts. Rather, they can be an important life lesson — you’re in control over more than you may believe.