What the rec

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Teacher recommendations, often called “recs,” are a key part of any college application. They allow admissions officers to see students beyond the GPA and SAT scores, and get insight into how a student performs in the classroom. This adds pressure to the students, who in turn begin the request process earlier and earlier.

Many juniors started requesting letters of recommendation in March.  Humanities teacher Joseph Canzoneri received over fifty requests to write letters this year and agreed to twenty-five.  According Mr. Canzoneri “Every year the students start asking earlier and earlier. It used to be that no one asked for a rec until late September [of senior year.]” In regards to recs, Mr. Canzoneri says that he usually feels more obligated to write for students who have had him for multiple classes.

Similarly, LOTE teacher Dr. Marianthe Colakis received forty requests.   When considering her letters, she says, “There’s no minimum grade. Sometimes people don’t have A averages but show improvement over the course of the year, or make outstanding collaterals, or just show a positive attitude to learning Latin.”

To write a rec is no simple process. When recommendations flood in, teachers too feel overwhelmed, often trying to balance grading schoolwork, their own freedom, and recommendations at the same time.  Many try to schedule interviews or ask the students to fill out questionnaires.

With the looming competition for letters on students’ minds, even underclassmen feel pressure.  When asked if she has been thinking about the college process, sophomore Sherin Shibu responded that she is “trying not to, but it’s difficult to ignore.” In a poll conducted on underclassmen, 72% of respondents had already started thinking about the process and rec writing.

To this effect, Mr. Canzoneri reflects, “It feels like writing recommendation letters has become a year round job, and I hate to say it that way. There used to be recommendation letter season.”

As many students apply for recs at different times throughout in the year for things like Questbridge, scholarships, early decision,  etc., it’s no wonder that teachers and students are feeling the stress and competition for recs, pushing them to act sooner.