The importance of college admissions

As college application deadlines loom, Juniors and Seniors must take into account yet another factor in deciding their future education.

College-requested teacher recommendation letters are due soon, and students must look back on their most recent years to select the mentors who they believe could best advocate for them in the critical world of college admissions.

Private colleges have universally integrated letter writing into their admission process. On average, West Coast Universities tend to ask for one letter of recommendation, while their Eastern counterparts often require two letters of recommendation.

Although the aim is to inform a university about a prospective freshmen, according to Jesuit counselor Dr. Robert McAleese, the letters also give insight to the student outside of his transcript.

“[The letters help] find out who the students are in the classroom,” Dr. McAleese said. “Are they engaged? Do they do their work? Do they participate?  How would they do in college?”         

The letter serves more as a teacher’s rating of performance and effort, providing much more information about academics than a simple transcript could.

As a result, some precaution and forethought must be taken with this process. Dr. McAleese suggests that students begin cultivating relations with at least two teachers in junior year, as oftentimes senior year teachers have known the applicant for too little time to write an effective recommendation.

Sometimes it is better for the student to request a letter from a teacher who also knows him outside of the classroom by means of a club or sport because this can provide vital insight into both the academics and outside interests of an applicant.

Whether they are viewed with annoyance as yet another step in the elaborate admissions process, or an opportunity to provide another factor which may push the balance in one’s favor, teacher recommendations are a vital part of any private college or scholarship application.   A well-written recommendation that brings a student’s personality into perspective can tip an application in a student’s favor.