Recommendation Letter Fiascos

<p>It's that time of year for seniors to be securing recommendation letters if they haven't already. My son was fairly proactive and has three excellent ones. He received a fourth one on Friday that I can't imagine us using! OMG! The teacher that wrote it is one of the most respected teachers at his school - she has surely written many, many letters for students in the past. She is a bit quirky. </p>

<p>She knows my son fairly well - he had her for two full years. She also had my older daughter for a couple of years so WE have known her in some way for a few years. </p>

<p>The letter is not on school letterhead.
The letter has obvious grammatical errors.
The letter is written in a very loose, almost comical manner. "Be sure to get in on this excellent opportunity to secure a great student while you can!" (paraphasing there, but not much)
The letter is somewhat misleading. She mentions that he is a "talented musician" when in fact he took his first ever band class learning an instrument from scratch as a sophomore - that was clearly listed that way on his activities resume - "Year 10 - Beginning Band". More stuff like this in the letter.
The letter mentions that she had had his sister in class who was a stellar student and that I volunteer "tirelessly" for the school - huh???? This stuff should not be in HIS letter!</p>

<p>Honestly, the first time I read it I was kind of upset. The second time I read it, I was rolling in laughter. How could I not?! I'm not sure what to think of this, other than this is one letter that will likely not get used....</p>

<p>So, how about your experiences? Any blunders, un-true comments, etc in your student's rec letters? </p>

<p>Maybe someone can laugh/cry along with me.....!</p>

<p>I didn't see the letters written for ds, so I have no idea what they say. How did you see it? Aren't they private? Maybe she's pulling your leg.</p>

<p>Well since you say the other 3 are great.. I'd like to see them. It's so unclear when people say that have "great" letters or horrible ones. I understand how a letter can be horrible, but I'd like to see what a good written one looks like. My chemistry teacher (extremely smart) by the way, just wrote me a letter, and I'm not sure what would classify it as wonderful or mediocre.</p>

<p>I'm betting it's for real. No caring teacher is going to write a joke LOR and watch the student/parents have the proverbial heart attack over it.</p>

<p>I'm not sure if it's our HS or our S's choices for LOR writers, but both made sure he saw it before it was launched, so he brought them home for us to look at. S couldn't have asked for more if he'd paid for the LORs. Which reminds me, since the small gifts for LOR writes have been secured, I'll have to ask him when he prefers to deliver them. I'm guessing later since, of course, he'll need to append his thank you note and right about now, with all his essay writing, writing something else won't be high on his list. LOL!</p>


<p>Stellar comments in a good LOR (of course, these have to be earned) are things like: "In my 25 years of teaching calculus, XXXXX is my top (or one of the top five students) student." Or "Honorable young men who consistently perform at high academic levels are not forgotten by their teachers. XXXXX will remain one of those elegant exceptions to the majority. He is a star in my 40 year career as a teacher."</p>

<p>Well he basically restated things that were on my interview. Then added that my personality was my strong point, he elaborated a little more on that, but it was relatively short.</p>

<p>MIT explains pretty well what makes for a helpful vs. less helpful recommendation: MIT</a> Admissions | Info For Schools & Counselors: Writing Evaluations </p>

<p>We don't see our teacher's recommendations - they send them on their own, many e-mail them via the Common App. I have no idea if they are on school letterhead or the teacher's own letterhead. My son waived his right to see them, and his teachers haven't shown him what they wrote.</p>


<p>I concur with you that the MIT explanation of what makes a helpful recommendation is excellent. In fact, the whole admissions section of the MIT web site should be a model to follow, in my option. The icing on the cake for it are the periodic vingettes written by current students.</p>

<p>All 4 of his letters (including the one I mention on this thread) were only given directly to him for use as he needed to send to a school or to send along with a scholarship application. This is something we have always done - teachers of course are willing to send something directly to a school or scholarship committee if needed.</p>

<p>I have always wondered about the differing cultures and practices of students being given their rec letters. At our sons' fairly ordinary urban/suburban public school it seems to be very unusual for a teacher to share a letter with a student, and I presume that's just the culture there. You try to pick teachers who like you and know you and then you hope for the best. Frankly you are worried less about what the letter says (since you rarely if ever see it) than just that the teacher is getting it done and submitting it timely.</p>

<p>I suspect (without knowing) that this is a major difference between public and private high schools.</p>

<p>A my S's private HS recommendation letters would not be shared with the student. They are given to the GC who will distribute as needed.</p>

<p>Wow, while I realize that the private recommendation letters can make sense so counselors, teachers can be totally honest, I have to say that kids who don't see them are missing out on an opportunity not only to be proud and confident of the positive statements but to learn from the not-so-positive statements.</p>

<p>Interesting. I'd love to see Son's LORs. But I doubt we ever will. He waived his right and provided an envelope for each letter. </p>

<p>Consider yourself lucky if you get to see them.</p>

<p>My daughter is currently applying to grad school. She waived her right to see the letters and gave the profs envelopes, asking them to sign across the seal. She picked up the sealed envelopes to include in her application packets.</p>

<p>Even though she didn't expect to be given the chance to read any of her letters, the prof whose research lab she's been working on emailed her the letter he wrote. It was a very long, thoughtful letter full of praise and detail. She knew she'd get a strong letter from him but this one deeply touched her. Sometimes it's nice to know just how much someone appreciates you.</p>

<p>At our school, I don't think there's any choice in the matter--students never see recommendations (unless, I suppose, the teacher volunteers to show them). Students are instructed to give the teachers stamped, addressed envelopes to all the colleges they're applying to, along with a 'crib sheet' on which they write some info about themselves and highlights of their academic career with that teacher.</p>

<p>Our public HS operates like mamom's. Students waive their right to see letters and the teachers give them directly to the GC to distribute as needed. </p>

<p>I remember at one college meeting a parent expressed concern over their child asking a wonderful science teacher for a rec since English was not the teacher's first language and he was known to make grammatical errors. The GC assured the parents that all rec letters are checked for spelling and grammar and if there is a problem the GC works with the teacher to polish the letter (grammar, not content) before it goes out.</p>

<p>Our public & my son's private high school NEVER let you see the rec.</p>

<p>Consider yourself lucky to be able to see the letters and decide if you wish to send the letter onto chosen school!</p>

<p>Yes, I guess we are lucky - nothing bad was in the letter I mentioned, just not really accurate and well, just a real different style!</p>

<p>I requested and received scrubbed copies of LORs from our local top 100 public school (we homeschool and I wanted to see samples). The wording wasn't as sappy as in the OP, but pretty close. I would have thought they would be more professional and arms-length. At least I didn't find any grammar or spelling errors ;)</p>

<p>I saw my son's GC rec after the application process was over, because of a scholarship application. </p>

<p>It was riddled with inaccuracies, left out his most important honors (achieved jr year), and gave little or no sense of who he was. It was positive, but it certainly didn't help him in the admissions process. I have every confidence that his teacher recs were much better, since those people actually knew and cared about him.</p>