personal descriptors: avoiding unsuspected negative connotations

<p>LMAO that my earnest do-gooder is so undesirable. ;) He IS an Eagle Scout. Maybe we need to recraft his image. Something edgy. Maybe he could start a fight club at school!</p>

<p>ebeeeee:</p>

<p>My DS has done the same in math tutoring with his fellow sportmen (water polo/swim), and for other friends during the darkroom down time in photography class. We just had to take a stab at how many hours this was, since the only tutoring he kept track of was for students who called him off the tutor list. Even during spring break, he joined a study group of his friends who were prepping for the AP Calc BC exam, who were glad to have him there.</p>

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One example given was the adjective "hardworking," which could be code for "grind" or "isn't that smart and had to work very, very hard for those grades and scores"

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<p>If a college isn't interested in students because they prefer to study over socializing or because what they lack in natural ability they've made up in dedication, then I'd rather know that up front and not give them a dime of my money.</p>

<p>Re: post 20: Try self-starter.</p>

<p>Isn't this just ridiculous!!! D just got accepted into a program that S had been rejected from. I think his problem was he was too polite and respectful. D took a risk and asked a teacher whom she had bluntly criticized a few months prior (D called him a weak leader who was easily manipulated) to give her a recommendation. He wrote about that incident in his letter, and voila she was in! Who knew?</p>

<p>pugmadkate:</p>

<p>It's not a question of choosing partiers over academic stars. It's about students who don't have to make extraordinary efforts to keep up.<br>
Colleges do want students to get out of their bedrooms or the library and contribute to the community while also excelling academically. Look at it this way: if you were an adcom and had to choose between two A students, one who spent half an hour on homework to get that A and the other half the day, which would you choose? </p>

<p>Another issue that adcoms are considering that hard work alone will only get you that far in college. College is that much harder than high school. If a student has to spend every waking hour doing homework as a high schooler, that student may find the college too challenging.</p>

<p>The GFG: I don't think it's ridiculous at all. clearly, the teacher thought it demonstrated admirable self-confidence and willingness to challenge received wisdom (literally). College profs appreciate that. The two most important things to learn in college is to read and think critically and to write clearly and persuasively. Reading and thinking critically means being willing to challenge authority. Good for your child's teacher not to want a teacher-pleaser.</p>

<p>Oh no, YDS. An earnest Eagle Scout? How do you sleep at night? ;)</p>

<p>I've posted before about the leader of my religious community, who is probably the most earnest person I have ever met. He is not a deep intellectual; he is not a natural scholar. He earned his various degrees the old fashioned way- hard work, diligence, plugging away.</p>

<p>There is room in the world for lots of different talented people. This man is a miracle worker to families and people in pain or suffering a loss or dealing with the mundane tragedies that people go through. Nobody wrote him a recommendation for college describing him as a renaissance man nor should they have. But a fine college recognized the spark of humanity in him many years ago, and we are all better off for it.</p>

<p>Write an honest and descriptive appraisal of your D and let the application stand on its own. Not everyone is curing cancer or making millions of dollars in a snazzy career-- some truly great people are just comforting those with cancer, or getting a family who has just lost their home a lease on a decent apartment even though they don't have a security deposit.</p>

<p>Good lesson for your D that you love her just the way she is. Which I'm sure is the truth.</p>

<p>What's ridiculous is not that my D demonstrated self-confidence and it was recognized as such, but rather that this is one area in which savvy kids or students with savvy parents will have an advantage over the naive or uninitiated.</p>

<p>Well, I don't know that kids who have savvy parents go around challenging their teachers for the sake of getting a good recommendation down the line! There's always the smartalecky kid, but teachers ought to be able to see through the pose.</p>

<p>I also agree with Blossom that parents and teachers ought to be truthful in the description of their students' qualities and that there is a good college for every college-bound student. But there are some subtle connotations to words that we are not always aware of.
A young friend of mine graduated from Harvard summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a nearly publishable honors thesis. He was rejected by Harvard Medical School. It turned out that his advisor (the one who later said the thesis was of nearly publishable quality) was writing the rec at a time when the lab work was not going smoothly and expressed mild concern about the seeming lack of progress. When adcoms are coping with 30k applications for 2000 offers, they find it easy to reject the applicants who do not stand out.</p>

<p>How about responsible instead of earnest? Possibly serious? Sincere and purposeful also might work. Also instead of using adjectives, describe behaviors and examples. What makes him earnest? What are examples of his earnestness? You don't need to say your child is edgy when he's not, just don't make him sound boring.</p>

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A young friend of mine graduated from Harvard summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a nearly publishable honors thesis. He was rejected by Harvard Medical School. It turned out that his advisor (the one who later said the thesis was of nearly publishable quality) was writing the rec at a time when the lab work was not going smoothly and expressed mild concern about the seeming lack of progress. When adcoms are coping with 30k applications for 2000 offers, they find it easy to reject the applicants who do not stand out.

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<p>This reminds me of the Kevin Klein movie "21." Although that was an MIT UG aiming for Harvard Med.</p>

<p>The only letters I really worry about (at the graduate admissions level, which tends to be handled by departments) are the ones that praise the student for excellent attendance.</p>

<p>I like "hard-working," although the take on it is probably right. I really like "earnest." I have quoted (more-or-less) a poem by Neils Bohr before on CC, on the thread "Struggle and Challenge are Good: The Work of Carol Dweck." Bohr was tremendously influential in quantum mechanics (well beyond the Bohr model), because a high percentage of the people who made important contributions traveled to Copenhagen and worked there for extended periods of time. So Bohr had the opportunity to observe what characteristics led to later success. He emphasized hard work and earnestness over talents and gifts. Of course, he was only considering a subset of the population, and they were all pretty gifted to begin with. But it's interesting that Americans would probably emphasize having a good sense of humor, being artsy or edgy, and being "passionate," over hard work.</p>

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Colleges do want students to get out of their bedrooms or the library and contribute to the community while also excelling academically...

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<p>I understand that. The part I find absurd is that "hardworking" has come to be code for those who are not social enough or who perhaps cannot keep up.</p>

<p>Look, I used this board all the time. I fret, I worry, I overthink things. I know my son has an advantadge due to all of that. But the idea that parent or gc might be harming a kid because they don't come to cc to get the right code words? I find that infuriating. </p>

<p>And I realize that other people surely think I'm being ridiculous about this process. That's fine. This is just my line in the sand.</p>

<p>As someone who has been involved on both sides of performance evaluations and has helped prepare supporting packages for promotions and awards, I have learned that if you can give your evaluator/recommender words that they can cut & paste or reword slightly, you are doing both of you a favor. </p>

<p>One thing I always hear when recommendations or evaluations are being discussed is to cite specific examples. If there is any way to "remind" the teacher of specific examples of good work/deeds or anecdotes that capture what is special about the student, it doesn't hurt to "guide" the recommendation a little bit.</p>

<p>"Earnest"<br>
The only thing that comes to my mind is Ernest from "know what I mean, Verne?", Ernest Hemingway, Ernest & Julio Gallo, and Ernest Angely, the sleezy televangelist from way back(really!) Or maybe "he is a serious young man with a great sense of humor...."</p>

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<p>Wow! Will you write my daughter a recommendation? Better yet, will you write the performance evaluations for my staff this fall?</p>

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But it's interesting that Americans would probably emphasize having a good sense of humor, being artsy or edgy, and being "passionate," over hard work.

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<p>I, too, find it interesting; and sometimes, I think the emphasis is misplaced. Haven't I read somewhere that American parents tend to attribute their child's success to innate gifts while Asian parents tend to attribute it to hard work? Still, I would hope that excelling academically would be a given after which qualities such as leadership, passion, a sense of humor, and so on would be considered. Not instead of, but on top of.</p>

<p>I'm kind of stunned reading this thread. I have no idea what adjectives were used in my S's letters of rec, but what a scary thought - "hardworking" means something negative. I know my S's GC had my S fill out a questionnaire in which my S was asked to rate himself in several areas and describe himself as he believes others see him. The questionnaire also asked him to describe any hardships/difficulties he encountered while in high school. Additionally, S also was asked to submit a resume to the GC. My son used words like, funny, intelligent, hardworking, focused, etc. to describe himself. I guess it all worked out in the end b/c he is going to one of his top-choice schools, but I suppose I'll have to be more watchful of my D when her turn rolls around. And, yes, it seems like the Asian students at my kids' hs are extremely hardworking. They have inspired my children to work even harder than they already do. (My kids are uber competitive - can you tell?) I don't see that as bad other than watching some of those students have near-nervous breakdowns and ulcers from trying to be perfect. There's not a doubt in my mind all these students (my kids included) will be major assets to their colleges and future employers.</p>

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I don't see that as bad other than watching some of those students have near-nervous breakdowns and ulcers from trying to be perfect. There's not a doubt in my mind all these students (my kids included) will be major assets to their colleges and future employers.

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But that's the point. Adcoms at selective college are concerned that if applicants give themselves nervous breakdowns over high school work, they won't be able to handle the higher degree of difficulty of college. No one wants students who clog up the infirmary because they cannot handle work and have nervous breakdowns!</p>

<p>Hard-working is a fine quality to have and a fine descriptor to use, but not in isolation, and not as the only praise-worthy thing about an aspirant to a selective college (the type that uses a holistic approach rather than a numbers-driven one). But "Funny, intelligent, focused" are characteristics that colleges prize.</p>

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Hard-working is a fine quality to have and a fine descriptor to use, but not in isolation

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I think that's the key. If you see a student who is "hard-working" and "serious," has no extracurriculars and writes an essay that puts you to sleep you might form a certain perception of him/her that isn't too flattering. But if you have a "hardworking" and "serious" student who has extracurriculars, leadership and an interesting essay, you might find those attributes positive in the context of the package.</p>

<p>My D is a somewhat, well, weird individual. I think she's just the greatest thing, myself, but there are things that could be said about her in absolute honesty that wouldn't be too flattering. One could say that she's not the most hard-working student and be telling the truth. But one could also say that she does what needs to be done and is immediately aware of and eager to meet the next challenge and also be telling the truth.</p>

<p>A little off-topic. Two of the colleges to which my daughter applied asked for a parent letter of recommendation. I don't think I ever sweated over word choice as much as I did composing that letter, fearful one wrong move might deep-six my girl's chances!</p>

<p>Since it was a letter, my impressions were not reduced to mere adjectives. I could provide vignettes that illustrated her strengths and unique skills and traits. </p>

<p>Fortunately she was accepted at both schools. Whew.</p>