College Letter of Recommendation Policy

This page is directed at all students who approach me for college letters of recommendation. Here I outline my personal policy for college letters of recommendation. Anyone asking me for a letter will be asked to read, fully understand, and agreet to the terms laid out here. Also, I ask that all parents of students who ask me to write recommendations read this page.

About Early Admissions.........

I strongly suggest you see my material on college.php shown on the left. This will give you valuable hints on the college selection process.

Early admissions and early decision can mean a significant financial aid haircut. Beware of this. I don't like the whole 'early' process one bit.

The Procedure

Think before you ask Am I your best choice? Have you been a credible contributor to class? Are you inventive? Do you do cool stuff and have enthusiasm for Computer Science? If so, I am a good choice. If not ... think carefully.

To obtain a letter of recommendation, you must personally see me and ask prior to the 15 October deadline. I will consider all requests made and I will give a definitive answer by that date, or I may agree right away.. The guidance department does not "assign" me to write letters. The guidance department has no influence over my decisions. If you make a request, I will do one of the following.

  1. Tell you I am not the best choice for you and that I will not write you a letter.
  2. Ask you to submit the materials below and give you a decision by 15 October.
  3. Consent immediately to write you a letter and ask you to submit the supporting materials listed below by 15 October.

Here are the required supporting materials you need to assemble for me.

Whether or not I choose to write you a letter on your behalf is purely a matter of my personal discretion and professional judgment. The following items listed below feed into my decision, but I am not limited to these. This is a complex decision involving many factors.

  1. How well did you perform in my classes?
  2. Did you work hard and contribute? Have you put me in a position to write you a strong letter?
  3. How well do I know you? If you are a student for only one trimester, my job becomes more difficult and my evaluation more uncertain. I do discuss in my letter how long I have known you and in what capacities.
  4. Do I think you have put in a serious effort into my classes? If you spent a lot of time horsing around or disrupting class, my impression of you is bound to be affected and I will not consider your request very favorably.
  5. Did you go "above and beyond" in my classes or were you content to slide by doing the minimum amount of work? Were you a solid and active contributor to my class?
  6. Was your effort honest? Did you try to get by using unethical means?

As the season progresses, you should follow up and make sure that the colleges receive all materials. You should, as a matter of practice, check at all schools before the application deadline and make sure your file is complete. Because of the large number of letters I write, I cannot track these things for you.

The Inside Dope

I use the Columbia University format on all my letters. The following four questions are always answered completely, candidly, and to the best of my knowledge. My credibility is like money in the bank. I guard it with great care.

1. Please tell us about the candidate's intellectual qualities and academic work. We are interested in the nature of his motivation for scholarship, breadth and depth of intellectual interest, originality and capacity for growth. Cite specific examples where appropriate.

2. What are your impressions of the candidate's character and maturity? How do fellow students, teachers and you regard him/her as a person compared with contemporaries? Does the candidate show open--mindedness toward opinions, values and backgrounds different from his own? Does he have any special strengths, weaknesses or problems of which we should be aware? We would welcome any additional comments you think might be helpful to us.

3. What has been the candidate's most valuable contribution to your class?

4. In summary, what are the first words that come to mind to describe his or her personality?

5. Do you have any reason to doubt this student's personal integrity?

On Confidentiality

By law, you are entitled to see all letters of recommendation submitted to schools and you are entitled to see material in your school records. However, you may grant a confidentiality waiver to teachers for their letters. In this way, you are unable to examine your letters; however, you also assure the confidentiality necessary for your letter to be credible. I require this waiver be signed by any student requesting a letter of recommendation. Writing these letters take a great deal of my time and I do not want to waste time writing letters that will probably be disregarded by schools because they are not confidential.

All my letters are sent directly to the school. No one, except for myself or the school's admissions committee, sees your letter.

Common App I trust its confidentiality and will use the common app electronic system. Our school does not have a business relationship with Common App.

A Brief Trip to the Soapbox

The purpose of the college admissions process is for the student to select a school which affords the following.

My recommendations provide information about the student that does not necessarily show up on paper. My job is to write an honest appraisal of the student's academic potential. In the past, I have worked very hard to provide schools with honest, informative letters that help them make their judgment. I never actually recommend anything to the admissions committee of the school. I present the facts and then they choose to admit or deny admission based on the information in the student's file.

I am very careful to maintain my credibility with schools by making honest appraisals. This credibility is like money in the bank for future students who ask me to write letters. Therefore, I am extremely careful with it. I do not stretch the truth to get students into colleges. Such admissions tend to be poor decisions in which no one, the school, myself, or the student, benefits.

If there are Academy or NCSSM students attending an institution where I am recommending a candidate, I will sometimes provide a comparison in my letter between the academic abilities of the candidate and those students now attending the institution.