Thursday, July 30, 2009

Letters of recommendation!

Your Gen Yer needs a letter(s) of recommendation. Whether it's for college applications, grad school apps or a job. Here are a few tips on the subject:

College app. recs. from teachers:
Hopefully, as a junior, your kid asked their teacher(s) before summer started. If not, quick, it's the beginning of senior year, get this high up on their list of things to do. Brainstorm with them which of their teachers really knows them. Ideally, one from a math/science teacher and one from a social science teacher. Contrary to popular belief, not necessarily the teacher that gave them the 'A'. The teacher that really knows them; that may have witnessed them going the extra mile, asking for help, working really hard to get their grade up, taking a real interest in their subject. Then have them personally ask that teacher(s) if they'd be willing to write them a letter of rec. for their college application. Suggest that your kid put a resume together so they have something to give the teacher to help them write their letter. Assume that the teacher doesn't know all of the other things your child is involved in outside of their class. Also assume that this teacher has been or will be asked by many other students to write on their behalf. It's much better to be at the beginning of their pile than towards the end.

Note: Assume that neither you nor your child, will ever read this letter. So encourage your kid to really sit down and talk to their teacher, almost like an interview. This is for your kid to do, NOT YOU! These letters are important. Make no mistake, a letter of recommendation can tip the "accept or reject" scale in either direction.
*I know of a young man that was told by a college coach that he was "in." Come college acceptance time, the coach got a call from Admissions, and Admissions told him that a letter of rec. for this young man said they didn't think the student could cut it at this highly selective school. Well, the coach was shocked, called the student, told him the turn of events and to the student's credit, the student spent Thanksgiving, writing a letter to the Dean of Admissions trying to convince him otherwise. That he could "cut it." The Dean gave this kid "the nod" and this young man just matriculated from this highly selective school AND was a Division 1 athlete to boot. But I bet if you were to ask this young man his take-away from this? It was a lesson he'll never forget! The other lesson: a coach is not the deciding factor, Admissions is.

Grad school app recs from Professors:
BEFORE your student graduates from college, have this conversation. Ideally before your kid's senior year. In general, once your child has declared a major, their class sizes have gotten smaller, they may have to write a thesis, and the reality of having a relationship with a professor or two is pretty high.
This is the person that your child should have write a letter of recommendation, when the time comes. Be sure your kid asks this professor if they'd be willing to before they graduate. Some professors actually will write the letter of recommendation and give it to the student, to be used in the future, so they don't have to worry about remembering them. Otherwise, here's the kicker, remind your son/daughter to shoot that professor an email to update them on what they're doing. At least once a year. They want their professor to remember them and it will probably be two, three or more years before they apply to grad school and that's a lot of students that have sat through their lectures.
A resume is also helpful in this instance, but by now, your Gen Yer knows this.

Job app recs. from teachers or profs:
Same as above applies.

Other letters of rec. from summer employers or employers: same rules as above apply.

And last but not least.....BE SURE TO SEND A THANK YOU NOTE!
Regardless of whether or not they were accepted or rejected, got the job or not, these people took the time to write! "Thank you" goes a long way!

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