Good evening, young champions. Counselor Buddy returns today to give you a very important tip that I never would’ve thought of, and I pepper in comments that I think are helpful, or at least moderately humorous. Let’s get at it.
Hey, I’m not sure if this is post-worthy, but I’ve got a pet-peeve
that I thought I’d share in case you want to work it into a post
Counselor Buddy is so modest and coy.
Every year we preach to students to take the time to get to know us
(counselors) and some teachers well. We tell them that for many
scholarship applications, and some bigger-named college
applications, they will need letters of recommendation.
You know, I guess it never occurred to me that a student could go all the way through high school and NOT know enough teachers or counselors who could give them a decent letter of recommendation. But I’ve been out of high school for 18 years now, though, so what do I know? Counselor Buddy knows more. That’s why we keep her around!
It never fails, I get requests each year from students I barely
know, each resulting in a generic letter that will do them
absolutely no good. I never refuse to write a letter, but if I
don’t know much about the student, I stick to the facts (years
attended, GPA, courses taken, expected graduation date, and
possible activities they have participated in if they give me a
resume with that info).
When C-Buddy says they’ll do the students no good, she means that her letters will be so transparently generic that they’ll be communicating to the recipient the truth that she doesn’t know this student from Adam in any personal sense, and therefore can’t make any sort of real, authentic, hearty recommendation. If a “recommendation letter” is basically a transcript presented in prose, then the recipient knows what’s up.
Not only could I write pages for the kids I know well, but I’m also
much more likely to bend over backwards to help them. I can add
more specific information about their character, work ethic,
personality, strengths and their future plans for the students who
have taken the time to get to know me.
This is an important point that deserves a little more attention. Look, it’s not like you have to plop your ass down in the counselor’s office every day and force uncomfortable conversation about his/her home life and personal interests and the weather or whatever. That’s not what this is about.
Even if you come in a couple of times a semester and just ask a couple of questions about college, careers, financial aid, whatever — that gets your foot in the door with the counselor and will probably lead him/her to start asking more questions about YOU and what you want to do once you graduate. After a few of these meets, then bang, the counselor’s familiar with you and your abilities and plans and is more than able to write a glowing letter about you.
Again, I want to emphasize that is not rocket science, as they say, and anyone can do it. You just have to take the time — and it’s not very much time we’re talking about here — and do it. I’m dead serious when I say that five minutes here and five minutes there every week, doing things that really are NOTHING outstanding in and of themselves, can make a giant difference in your college prospects.
I’m not exaggerating. Remember, these things are all like dominoes. You get a great recommendation or you don’t. If you do, maybe then you DO get pushed over the edge into the acceptance pile into the school you want. Or, you get that full-ride scholarship that saves you from graduating from college with $40,000 in student loan debt. Which equals $400 or $500 extra bucks per month that you DON’T have to pay, unlike all your friends who took student loans.
It can all start with a few words here and there to a counselor. Or a teacher, for that matter. We’re using the counselor example here since Counselor Buddy is the one who put a bug in my ear about the entire issue, which I never would have thought of on my own. But the whole thing can work with teachers, coaches, even principals I’d guess. How often do you think students walk into a principal’s office and say “Hey, I’m Jane Whoever, and I was hoping you could get to know me and the kind of student I am over the next few years, because I’d like to think I’m the type of kid you’d write a college recommendation letter for someday.”
After the shock wore off, I’m sure the principal would probably be OK with it.
The point it, don’t be too afraid or too lazy to do these little things that’ll help you out big-time in the long run.
An addition to this pet-peeve is giving less than 24 hours notice
to write the letter. Telling me they need the letter in two hours
also ensures a letter lacking any personal information. Although,
I have been known to be a sucker for writing no-notice letters for
students I know and like well (bending over backward).
Sometimes Counselor Buddy is way too nice for her own good, but that’s just my opinion. Plus, she has a boss and I don’t, so I can’t be too tough on her. Anyway — seriously, if you’re showing up and asking ANYONE for ANYTHING with less than 24 hours of notice, you are being incredibly rude. I’ll spell it out for you this one time — asking people to stop everything else in the world that they’re doing just so they can meet YOUR needs that have arisen suddenly because of YOUR poor planning is pretty obviously in bad taste.
Plan ahead. Trust me, it’s one of the most important skills you can ever acquire. We’ll talk more about it another day.
Anyhow, just had another couple requests today and I’m already
having a cranky/snarky week, so thought I’d share in case you can
make a mention of it sometime on your site. 🙂
Done, C-Buddy. Thoughts, anyone? Post ’em in the comments section below.
Happy Monday! I’m off to make another pot of coffee. This microwaved Burger King coffee from yesterday is no longer cutting it. Although, if you want a half-price alternative to Starbucks that’s still really good-tasting coffee, try the BK “Turbo” coffee. It’ll surprise you.