Thursday, September 23, 2010

Letters, letters......and more letters

This past week I wrote letters of recommendation for three different students – one for study abroad, two for post-graduate professional health-care programs. This is one of the important functions of college faculty. Sure, we teach our classes, grade papers, do research and write research publications (sometimes with student coauthors!),serve on some committees, advise students,..... AND we write lots of letters to help students get internships, jobs, and accepted to graduate programs.

What we say in those letters depends on what we observe about a student’s motivation, commitment, participation in classes, sense of responsibility, passion, drive, ability to lead, ability to work collaboratively, level of independent and creative thinking.... among other things. The transcript will show the grades – the letters tell the story of the person behind the grades, and this is what graduate admissions offices and potential employers really want to know.

What we can report in our letters about a student is completely based on what we observe, which is a function of what that student demonstrates to us. This is one reason that being a student at an institution with reasonably small classes can be a great advantage – but only if the student uses the opportunity wisely. Faculty have the opportunity to get to know students well enough to write letters that can be really helpful, if the students demonstrate traits that can be the basis of a good letter. And those letters can open the door to great opportunities after college.

See where those letters have helped send some of our alumni .....

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