We know how important your involvement is in your child's education - we also know how difficult it can be to stay on top of all of the important steps in planning and preparing for college.  

Below you'll find this month's content - LEARN (info to know), DO (action to take), and TIPS (insights for success)


The Letter of Recommendation - is it really that important?

The Academic letter of recommendation is often required by colleges to help them get a good read on the student from someone who knows them well: teachers and their counselor.  Over time, the letter of recommendation, and its importance, has changed. 

It used to be that the academic letter of recommendation carried great weight and could really “make or break” an application.  However, as time has gone, on, it has become apparent that many letters of rec are written by those that the student knows will write only good things.  When a letter is all flowery and shows no gravitas, it can be discounted.  What student would ask a teacher to write a letter if they didn’t think it would be positive?

But with time also comes technology and today’s letters of rec are often uploaded right into the student’s application so that there is no way a student can see it or have it altered before it is received by the school.  The student lists the teacher or counselor as their recommender and a link is send from the college to the teacher’s email box with a live link to upload a letter. 

Letters from teachers and counselors are generally preferred to letters from employers or coaches. Admission officers are looking for more insight into your student’s academic performance and aptitude.  What they want is evidence that your student is going to enhance their campus academically and be an enthusiastic learner.

So, what should be included into the letter of recommendation?  Your student will want to provide the teacher with the activities resume so that the letter is as holistic as possible and doesn’t just state that “Billy is a good student in Environmental Science class.”  Their college letter of recommendation should reflect not only your student’s classroom performance, but also their initiative (seeking additional help if needed, willingness to help others, participation in classroom discussions, and leadership). 

Have them ask the recommender, “Do you feel that you can write me a positive and strongly worded letter of recommendation?”  If that person hesitates, they might not be the one to ask.   Make the process as convenient as possible for your letter writer by providing context, direction, and even an addressed envelope with stamps if the letter needs to be sent via snail mail to a college!

Remind your student that when seeking letters of recommendation that they are asking for a favor.  This is an opportunity to speak to the writer in person, ask nicely, and provide any and all necessary information that will make the process easier for them to execute it properly, including at least two weeks’ time to get it done.  A rushed letter is often less thoughtful and original.  


Polish up that resume

Now is the perfect time to encourage your student to update their activities resume (if it’s not already done) and discuss who the best teachers are to ask for help.

Remember, the resume should highlight academics, extracurricular participation, and any job or work history. Make sure they highlight any awards, achievements, and leadership or coordinator experiences.

TIP #1

Senior classes just around the corner! Remind your student to check if there is any required summer work for their classes. (Then help them get started early!)

TIP #2 

All exams are important – the Junior year exams may be the most important ones for college admissions. This is the last semester of grades that colleges will typically have to make their admissions decisions. Help your teenager do their best in studying for these finals.

myOWNEDU for Schools!

We work with schools to bring college planning courses to students and offer free College Planning Presentations for parents.  Learn more by clicking here.