did I do the right thing?

<p>I asked my teacher from the tenth grade to write me a letter of recommendation and she said, sure, no problem. She spent a lot of time asking me questions about myself, and giving me helpful advice on what makes a good recommendation. Then she gave me her letters and I saw that for the checkboxes she was not entirely positive (and for weird things like creativity). I told her that I appreciated her work greatly and I also appreciated her honesty but these letters would harm me in the long run because other teachers inflate their students' recommendations. She said she understood but that colleges will not necessarily believe all of those inflated recs. I told her that they probably won't, but that it will make me stand out negatively if I don't have a glowing recommendation. I asked her not to send them, and I have two other teachers sending mine now (neurotically but fortunately, I had asked an extra teacher to write letters for me anyway. Did I do the right thing?</p>

<p>There's a bit of a debate about that going on in the Parents' Forum. Some say it's best to get recommendations that will make you look good and help "market" you. Others says recommendations should also look at a person as whole and be honest about their strengths and weaknesses from an academic standing.</p>

<p>I can't say you did the right thing or wrong thing. But I do hope you "turned her down" courteously. :) </p>

<p>(For background, I ask my chem and English teacher to write my recommendations for me. C's in their classes. I could've asked my bio/math or History teacher as I get A's in their class, but I thought they knew me the best and was able to shed some light on my demeanor in their class and everything. And possibly explain the grade. :p)</p>

<p>" I told her that I appreciated her work greatly and I also appreciated her honesty but these letters would harm me in the long run because other teachers inflate their students' recommendations. She said she understood but that colleges will not necessarily believe all of those inflated recs. I told her that they probably won't, but that it will make me stand out negatively if I don't have a glowing recommendation."</p>

<p>I don't think that you did the right thing. Where I think that you did wrong was assuming that all teachers give students glowing recommendations. Not only is that not true, but it also can harm students as colleges may not believe a uniformly glowing recommendation.</p>

<p>Your teacher also had no obligation to show you the recommendations. For all you know, the other teachers may give you worse recommendations.</p>

<p>You didn't have to use the recommendation since you saw it and didn't like it, but I think that you made a mistake in suggesting to your teacher that the way to write a recommendation is to give a student uniformly glowing recommendation even if the teacher doesn't think that's true. I would be irritated if a student basically suggested that I should have lied on a recommendation form.</p>

<p>It also sounds like the teacher took a long time writing the recommendation, and took the time to talk with you in depth before writing it. If as a result, the narrative part of her recommendation provided lots of specifics that indicated why you should be accepted, that would have been far more important and impressive to colleges than would a group of high checkmarks with no specifics to back them up.</p>

<p>I know that when it comes to Harvard interview reports, for instance, I have heard that adcoms take them more seriously when the alumni interviewer appears to be a tough grader -- doesn't give the highest score for all qualities.</p>

<p>I have never given anyone the top scores on all categories yet several students whom I have interviewed have been accepted. Those all were students whom I was delighted to see get acceptances, and whom I thought very highly of. No matter how wonderful a student is, however, I think all students have at least one area in which they fall short of perfection.</p>

<p>It is unreasonable to expect teachers to check the highest ranking for every box. If the teacher is being honest, some will be high and some lower. You asked your teacher to be dishonest. This is not a terrible transgression since this process is new to you and you might not have a realistic perspective on what is important or usual in the application process, but it would be best not to do this again.</p>

<p>I didn't ask my teacher to lie, I asked her not to send the letters. I was very polite, and I never asked her to change the letter, I just immediately thanked her and told her not to send them</p>

<p>I think you did the right thing. I say this because of the way that the scoring is done. First off, the recs don't really count that high in the scheme of things. Your academic load, gpa/rank, standardized test scores, EC's, and probably the essays all count for more. In the case of the essays and recs, a college will typically have two readers. Each reader will give a score typically on a 1-5 or 1-9 scale depending on the college. If the two readers disagree widely, then a third reader will go thru it.</p>

<p>The point is that in order to have a 5 on a 1-5 scale or a 9 on 1-9 scale, you have to have the teacher/GC say things like "one of the finest students I have encountered in my 25 years of teaching" or "Joey's peers look up to him with respect as if they think he is going to be President of the United States someday". Therefore, most people are just trying to get through the rec section of the app without getting a red flag. </p>

<p>If the teacher was putting you down for below average on anything, you did the right thing, provided the teacher wasn't offended. You see this in the workplace sometimes, too. Some people don't know how to give references.</p>

<p>I think you did the right thing, IF you felt you were being unfairly treated. But my guess is, if the teacher took a lot of time to get to know you and still thought you to be not as creative as the highest box, the other teachers who wrote letters for you observed the same thing.</p>

<p>In any case, I wish I could have read my letters of reccommendation ...</p>

<p>It was previously said that: "There's a bit of a debate about that going on in the Parents' Forum. Some say it's best to get recommendations that will make you look good and help "market" you. Others says recommendations should also look at a person as whole and be honest about their strengths and weaknesses from an academic standing."</p>

<p>One: The idea of being judged and evaluated might have a bit more value to you if it was being done by God, but I don't think a GC/teacher/interviewer's opinion is any more than an opinion. I suspect from the way this occurred that you simply made a mistake by asking the wrong person for a rec. It is lucky that you were able to correct it and not have the rec go in.</p>

<p>Two: Even if the recs did somehow totally sum you up as a person, how can anyone think that it is better to have the app accurately represent you than having a rec that will aid your acceptance? The goal is not to get a good or accurate app. The goal is to get accepted.</p>

<p>Three: They accept/deny the application, not the applicant. It is naive to think that adcoms are going to get to know you from a standardized form and know exactly what kind of person you are and how well you are going to do in life, even if you do include a short essay.</p>

<p>I would hope after the thousands of applications that admissions officers read they would be able to tell the genuine ones, from ones that are just blowing smoke. You did was was best for your peace of mind, but I wonder if in the long run it really made much of a difference.</p>

<p>" think you did the right thing. I say this because of the way that the scoring is done. First off, the recs don't really count that high in the scheme of things. Your academic load, gpa/rank, standardized test scores, EC's, and probably the essays all count for more. "</p>

<p>When it comes to the most competitive colleges -- places like HPYS, where thousands of excellent applicants are rejected each year for lack of space -- the recommendations count a great deal.</p>

<p>A thoughtfully written recommendation documenting a student's areas of strengths as well as the areas in which they can grow can help a student get in because the college would have much more information in which to make a decision. Such a recommendation could be far more helpful than one from a teacher who checked the highest boxes and gave a "walks on water" recommendation that was vague or was obviously unrealistic. Absolutely no student is perfect in all areas.</p>

<p>A purpose of all colleges is to provide students with educational and other growth opportunities, so colleges don't automatically reject students who seem to be lacking in some areas. </p>

<p>If, for instance, the AP English teacher checks "top 10%" not "tops in my career" in terms of a student's creativity and the student's essay is OK, but not especially remarkable, the college will tend to trust the teacher's recommendation, including the things that the teacher marked highest.</p>

<p>If the teacher, however, had said, "tops in my career" for creativity and the student's essay was not remarkable, the college will doubt the teacher's judgment and also will doubt the quality of the teacher's instruction.</p>

<p>Northstarmom really wraps it all up.</p>

<p>When I spoke with my counselor about the breakdown of what private universities look at (SAT, GPA, EC, etc.) what surprised me was the large percentage that recommendations took up. According to him, it's 15-20%. EACH. (I'm guessing that if it's a place like Stanford that wants 3 recs, then those percentages are divided up...) So yeah, recs are really important.</p>

<p>At first, I thought you picked the wrong teacher because she was your teacher from sophomore year. Most teachers don't really remember their students from so long ago. But seeing that she was willing to write it and willing to ask you all these questions to know more about you changes the scene a bit. I really think you shouldn't have told her not to send the recs in. A rec that has excellent marks in every category for a student isn't as reliable as a rec that has some good and some bad marks. When a teacher gives you excellent marks all the way, he's indirectly also discrediting his own rec. For students who apply to like..HYP and stuff, students already have homogeneous SAT/GPA/AP scores, and that's why "separating yourself from the crowd" is even more crutial. That's where recs come in. Yet if all the recs also look the same, then it really isn't going to do you any harm.</p>

<p>Just a side note. I asked my junior year math teacher for a rec and I had gotten a A/B in her class. We always argued in class because I'd always ask questions. But in the summer we got to know each other more as a person. I used to hate her but after getting to know her I really liked her. So I asked her to write a rec instead of my chem teacher whom I've had for 2 years and got A/A/A/B. Why? I dunno how much that math teacher likes me but I KNOW for a fact she knows me as a person better than my chem teacher. My math teacher would thus give a better evaluation. (plus my chem teacher charges students for her recs..no way I"m doing that..)</p>

<p>You should maybe send that teacher a thank you gift/note still because she spent so much time writing that rec.</p>

<p>Why don't you ask some teachers who actually don't like you to write recs for you? That way the college can get a truly balanced view of your academic strengths and weaknesses. The whole point, after all, is to present yourself on the application in the most accurate way possible.</p>

<p>The main purpose of volunteer alumni interviews is to identify the applicants with no social skills. Red flags are that the applicant/interviewee is described as arrogant or extremely shy. I don't see how anyone could think that adcoms looking at an applicant's academic record in high school, standardized test scores, personal statements, and teacher recs would be swayed by whether a volunteer alumni interviewer really loved the applicant in a half hour interview. However, when a school is denying 90% of the applicants, you don't want the volunteer alumni interviewer to not like you. When the adcoms are feeling bad about having to deny all of these wonderfully qualified applicants who would be just as able to prosper at their school as the people who are accepted, having a negative interview is an easy way to drop somebody. A red flag on a rec serves the same purpose.</p>

<p>I'm sorry but I missed the fact that the OP's teacher was from soph year. Recs should come from senior year teachers and no farther back than junior year.</p>

<p>"Why don't you ask some teachers who actually don't like you to write recs for you? That way the college can get a truly balanced view of your academic strengths and weaknesses. "</p>

<p>You seem to have the wrong idea that teachers who like a student don't notice the student's flaws. You also seem to think that a person who truly dislikes another would be able and willing to write a balanced report about them. </p>

<p>"I'm sorry but I missed the fact that the OP's teacher was from soph year. Recs should come from senior year teachers and no farther back than junior year."</p>

<p>I agree. Colleges want information from teachers who can provide current info (including specifics about how the student is in the classroom) about one's abilities, character and work habits. Students change a great deal between soph and senior years, so abilities that may not have developed when one was a soph may be outstanding by senior year.</p>