Seniors look to staff for college recommendation letters

Carrie Sandler, News Editor

With the college application process well underway, seniors have started looking for sources to write letters of recommendation in order to complete their applications.

During the process of college applications, a common element to include when applying is the letter of recommendation. The letters are typically written by a staff member or counselor that the student desiring the recommendation has a relationship with. College and Career Counselor Ivy Hartman said that seniors choosing who they want to write their letter of recommendation is important to having a strong application and ensuring acceptance into a university.

“Colleges only know what you sent them, therefore the letter of rec is meant to affirm how great you are as a leader or add another layer to your character,” Hartman said. “They want to see someone who knows you pretty well, and typically more recently and consistently, which tends to fall into the junior year category.”

Knowing how much of a factor the letter of recommendation plays into the application process, applicants tend to be careful when choosing who they want to write their letters. Senior Sara Hunstad said she based who she selected to write her letters on how much of a relationship she had developed with them and how she thought that would make her letters that much stronger during the application process.

“I made a list of all the teachers I had and narrowed it down to who I thought knew me the best and who I could trust to write me a strong letter of recommendation,” Hunstad said.

The other factor besides a teacher letter is a counselor letter, which Hartman said is typically written by her. In addition to not only writing a recommendation letter, Hartman said she also works with applicants on deciding who they choose to write their letters.

“I give advice on who they should ask, how to ask them, along with having a survey in Scoir to meet with students for writing counselor letter,” Hartman said. “In addition, we put teacher letters in SCOIR so I can see who’s being repetitive because I don’t want to send two letters that say the same thing.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more seniors to turn to teachers from previous years in place of current teachers due to the lack of relationship foundation. Because of this, social studies teacher Mary Jo Bauer said she has been overwhelmed with the number of letters she has had to write this year.

“I have written 15 letters so far this year, compared to previous years when normally I get around eight letters at most,” Bauer said. “I think it could be because I teach all juniors at AP level and another factor was quarantine with the idea of connections students are able to make with senior class teachers hasn’t been there, so they’re relying on relationships that got them through quarantine.”

Even though Bauer had a large individual turnout for letters, this is not always the case for other teachers. Because Bauer teaches an AP Government class, Hartman said students often look to a core subject teacher who knows their academic work well in a more difficult setting with regards to courseload.

“More AP teachers receive letters of recommendation along with world language teachers because of coursework load involved in those classes,” Hartman said.

But that is not the only case in having a letter of recommendation. Some students may choose to have a coach who happens to be a teacher write their letter of recommendation based on the character perspective rather than the work perspective. Hunstad said she selected cross-country coach Jason Miller as one of her sources because of how she ran cross-country all four years of high school.

“I chose Miller as one of my sources because he’s known me for four years so I knew he could talk about my character well,” Hunstad said.

When it comes to writing the letter, Bauer said she spends around an hour writing each letter for the purpose of writing a strong, personalized letter for the student.

“Each letter takes an hour because I talk about skills that students can bring to university to make the institution better,” Bauer said. “I also send students questions where I try to take their responses and fit them into a personalization and add the needed commentary to make it individualized.”