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Helpful extra letter of recomendation?

canoeriver123canoeriver123 15 replies7 threads Junior Member
My dad works with a former Harvard Admissions officer and Harvard Associate Professor that wrote me a reference letter for Harvard. I'm an otherwise fairly strong applicant. How much will this help?

Deferred from Yale with a 1560 SAT, 3.95 UW GPA.

Asian Male from Alabama

Published research paper in Peer Reviewed Journal, named Co-author.
National Piano Awards
Heavy Community Service Involvement through music.
Good Recs
Good Essays
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Replies to: Helpful extra letter of recomendation?

  • gibbygibby 10529 replies246 threads Senior Member
    edited January 16
    As your father's friend -- the Harvard Admissions officer/professor -- never taught you in a class, their letter cannot comment about the specifics Harvard needs to know about. For example, Are you a student that constantly raises your hand, or are you a shy student that makes insightful comments but needs to be called upon? Do you lead classroom discussions? Does your writing go beyond the constraints of the assignment? Are you respected by your peers and teachers? Are you wise beyond your years? Are you the kind of student who will be remembered for years to come after you graduate? Are you the kind of student that might change the world?

    As such, what is the letter writer going to say? "I know @canoeriver123's family, and they raised him/her the right way and s/he would be a good candidate for Harvard!" Unfortunately, that type of letter just shows who your family knows, and IMHO will have zero effect on your chances.
    edited January 16
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  • compmomcompmom 10838 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Does this person know you well? I don't think it will help at all if not.
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  • nrtlax33nrtlax33 671 replies15 threads Member
    edited January 16
    Read https://mitadmissions.org/apply/parents-educators/writingrecs/
    We are only looking for glowing superlatives if they are backed up with examples and give us context ....

    BTW, your C in AP Calculus BC shows you can't handle heavy workload. Your "7 other APs this year" will actually backfire. You should have spent more time on your ECs/leaderships/etc.
    edited January 16
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  • lostaccountlostaccount 5331 replies90 threads Senior Member
    I'm not sure why anyone would suggest you have not spent enough time on ECs because I see no indication anywhere about how much time you have spent on ECs. Being a co-author of a peer reviewed paper is an impressive achievement for a high school student since it indicates your contribution was sufficiently significant to warrant your having your name on it. And winning national awards for piano playing constitutes a significant achievement and represents hours upon hours of practice. The AP grade is understandable in light of the explanation for it and I'd have the guidance counselor intervene by calling the school. In terms of the extra letter, I'm not a big fan of students having connected people write letters for them to capitalize on that person's connections unless the potential letter writer has supervised the student in some way or had him/her in a course. I think it comes across as being exactly what it is. And, it can breed resentment because it also imposes a kind of pressure on the adcons-and that can lead to a knee jerk response of "let's say no". So I wouldn't advise sending it.
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  • gibbygibby 10529 replies246 threads Senior Member
    edited January 16
    Your post history: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/21902573#Comment_21902573
    I did quite poorly in AP Calculus BC and ended with a 79.3. I couldn't get it rounded to a B, and my school does not specify + or - so it will look pretty bad on the transcript.

    AP Calc BC seems to be the "holy grail" of AP classes and colleges tend to value it more than any other AP class. For example, this post from a blog CC will not let me link to:
    Among the 37 courses and exams currently available through the AP program, certain courses and exams are usually thought to be more difficult simply by virtue of their subject matter. For instance, the AP Calculus AB and BC exams and Biology exam are considered especially challenging.

    So -- even for student's indicating they are interested in humanities -- a low AP CALC BC will not move an application forward.
    edited January 16
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  • lostaccountlostaccount 5331 replies90 threads Senior Member
    Gibby, I think this is makes the low score more understandable: "Here's the thing. I just switched schools my senior year, and this new school system requires you to take AB before BC, which I didn't, so the class was being taught with the assumption that the students already had a grasp on calculus, which I did not have. "
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  • gibbygibby 10529 replies246 threads Senior Member
    edited January 17
    ^^ Got it. However, on another thread, the OP acknowledges they applied to Yale SCEA and was deferred. So, Yale liked the OP's profile, but didn't feel strongly enough about them to admit in the SCEA round --despite the OP's high SAT score and GPA. It will be interesting to see if Harvard feels the same way in the RD round given the OP is IMHO trying to court Harvard with an additional LoR from a family friend that happens to have been a Harvard Admissions officer/professor. See: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/21858935#Comment_21858935,
    edited January 17
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  • compmomcompmom 10838 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Well, I assumed you had already submitted the letter or I would have said that, unless the recommender worked with you in some way, the letter might hurt more than help. It is always good to try to progress on your own merits, rather than connections, anyway- in theory at least. The calculus issue would not seem to me to be as big an obstacle as some seem to think, in light of other accomplishments. I hope you did a music supplement with recording and resume and one or two letters from teachers. Those are the kinds of "extra" letters that help. Or at least a letter from one of your other EC's.
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  • canoeriver123canoeriver123 15 replies7 threads Junior Member
    edited January 17
    Got it. I was deferred before I received the publication as co-author. I did indeed send recordings and resumes for my music accomplishments. The additional letter of rec was addressed in a way that made it clear the writer has know me for a while and has a grasp on my personality. I believe that it is more than an “extra” letter and has merits in showcasing another aspect of me. As for the Calc grade, it is the only grade I have made below an A and I believe an explanation from both the teacher and my councilor on the mid year report would be sufficient?
    edited January 17
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34575 replies384 threads Senior Member
    I don't see the major. If it's stem, you need stem strengths and ECs. Didn't you previously say a B in another physics course and history? And I don't see school ECs. A peer reviewed publication is not the same as a professional journal. Even if you aren't stem, this is light on ECs.

    Harvard doesn't need an extra letter to attest to your personality. That should have come through in your other letters and your own self presentation. I agree it can seem grasping at straws. You haven't worked with this person, presumably he can only speak to your nice kid aspects. Or your parenting. Did you see the letter?
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  • canoeriver123canoeriver123 15 replies7 threads Junior Member
    No B's. Pulled them all up except for Calc. Major is English/Music. I'm not sure what you mean by the professional journal. This is a professional peer reviewed journal with a relatively high impact factor for a high school student. I was just hoping that the letter would pull some weight due to the guy being "in" the Harvard circle. I agree that I'm grasping but I already have good traditional letters of rec from actual teachers and only used this one because maybe he knows someone who knows someone...
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34575 replies384 threads Senior Member
    In the high school world, peer reviewed generally means other hs kids. I.e., your peers. If this is different, good.

    What's done is done. It's possible your music will pull you through. But now everyone waits for Ivy Day.
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  • nrtlax33nrtlax33 671 replies15 threads Member
    edited January 17
    @canoeriver123 : I am wondering how you can do "7 other APs this year". Some people might think you are "too intense". Our school district recently has one admitted to Harvard SCEA. A Juilliard level musician. (Juilliard level can be confirmed when comparing with another person who actually study at Juilliard now.) Another one in the recent past is specialized in politics. No STEM kids. Why are you taking Calculus BC without AB? What other AP courses are you taking? I hope your publication is not STEM related. Watch https://www.youtube.com/user/hiheidz/videos to see if you can tell why she got admitted. IMHO, it is her poems.
    edited January 17
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  • canoeriver123canoeriver123 15 replies7 threads Junior Member
    edited January 17
    Misspoke- 7 total APs. Took BC because I would have taken it at my previous school had I stayed and councilor just merged my classes in adding a few. Applying to Juilliard but it’s very subjective. There’s really no “Juilliard level” as the worst person there is a lot different from the best. All I can say are my awards and performances are quite heavy relative to the normal music applicant. Research is done on public health.
    edited January 17
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  • nrtlax33nrtlax33 671 replies15 threads Member
    edited January 17
    Research is done on public health.
    In that case, your file might be categorized as potential premed. So your AP Calculus BC will count, adding in your previous record of " I have had all As except for a B in one semester of Advanced Physics and another B in one semester of AP World History." makes your app not convincing. Downward trend is among the worst enemies for premed. From Alabama does help you to a certain degree. Changing school in senior year is also a factor. (no long-term relationships with teachers/GC) I can see the reason why you would like to have another recommendation letter. It might help you in my opinion.
    edited January 17
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  • nrtlax33nrtlax33 671 replies15 threads Member
    edited January 17
    Major is English/Music
    FYI, those are winning poem/writing for Harvard admissions .... but she starts to take computer science courses ....
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSCQ9ux095c

    edited January 17
    Post edited by skieurope on
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34575 replies384 threads Senior Member
    edited January 17
    Now what are you assuming? OP said English and music. No adcom will say, 'Asian...wants premed." Public health is a common enough interest among humanities kids for many reasons. Certainly nothing that shows a picture leaning toward medicine. Nor poetry.

    At this point, leave the decision to Harvard.

    Btw, one of those links is an ad for a clothing line.
    edited January 17
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39634 replies7195 threads Super Moderator
    edited January 17
    MODERATOR'S NOTE:
    Let's not get off-topic from the poster's question, please. I've edited out the strange YouTube link
    edited January 17
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  • nrtlax33nrtlax33 671 replies15 threads Member
    edited January 17
    @canoeriver123 : If you are truly a humanity major, why are you taking AP Calculus BC? Public health is science (STEM). (https://www.apha.org/what-is-public-health) Your intended major is not consistent with the rest of your profile. Your "research" has no relationship with your music/English major. Nobody is good at everything. Maybe you are an exception. If you have declared your premed intention in your essays, it might be better (premed can be humanity major), but I seriously doubt it.
    edited January 17
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  • EmptyNestSoon2EmptyNestSoon2 40 replies0 threads Junior Member
    To the OP, while I agree with others that the extra letter from the former Harvard Admissions Officers *shouldn’t* be helpful in a truly fair and just world, my understanding is that it may actually be helpful. I agree that the colleges most want academic teachers’ recommendations, for the reasons outlined. However, I have heard from a variety of well-connected sources at two ivies that these types of extra letters never hurt and might help. I know it is already sent, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in your case. Ha ha ha, perhaps sadly, my child does not have someone to write this type of letter for them, and overall I think we’d be uncomfortable with it anyway, but that does not mean I think they are utterly ineffective. I’m sure the effectiveness, though, depends on whether this individual is still close with people in the AO and has their respect,
    how much power they had, and if this person writes 10 letters a year for kids like you, or just writes one letter every few years, how much they are making a case for you, etc.

    I also wouldn’t read too much into getting deferred from another school EA.....we all know there are kids who get deferred or rejected from schools we all would presume would be “easier” to get into, and then get accepted to schools we think should be harder...there are some elements that appear fairly random to us observers, so I don’t think that should worry you too much. Good luck to all!
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