大学申请 – 推荐信

大学申请 (五)推荐信

并不是所有美国本科大学的申请都要求推荐信。申请很多公立大学,比如加大和加州州立大学( UC and CSU),不需要准备推荐信。而绝大多数私立大学则要求申请材料中包括一封高中咨询员 (Guidance Counselor) 和两位任课老师的推荐信。课本上讲到,录取率越低的私立大学,推荐信的份量就越重。2011 年对大学招生办的调查表明,录取率低于 50% 的私立大学把高中咨询员推荐信的重要性评到高达 52%,任课老师的推荐信高达 51%。(Of those universities accepting less than 50 percent, over half gave considerable importance to the counselor letter [52%] and teacher recommendations [51%].)

计划申请私立大学的高中生从九年级起就要为推荐信做准备,修课去掌握知识的同时和老师好好相处,找到那两位可以在12年级申请大学时为自己做有力支持的后盾。(Build and foster relationships with teachers and counselors from day one so that you not only get the most out of your classes, but also have people who can advocate on your behalf when it comes time to apply to colleges.) 理想的情况下是人文科和数理/科学科各有一位老师来写推荐信,但选择老师最主要的标准是了解自己个性特点,特别是教自己有兴趣在大学深造的科目的老师。

如果学生曾在校外某研究机构做过实习生或有兼职工作,那导师或雇主也可以写出强有力的推荐信,前提条件是他/她们信里的侧重点要与校内任课老师的不同,展现申请人的其它品质。推荐信总数不得超过5封。

我身边许多成绩优异的高中生申请大学时最大的难题是他/她们从未在选课或交友上有过任何需要和 Guidance Counselor 讨论的地方,所以 counselor 并不认识自己,怎么能写出有力的推荐呢?如果孩子刚上高中,请务必介绍自己给 counselor 认识,校园活动或生活中多寻找机会让 counselor 了解自己,至少也要时常打个招呼。如果已经是 12 年级了,就请参考使用附件里的 Brag Packet,列出自己高中的成绩,成就,活动等,还有家长的反馈,让 counselor 马上了解自己是什么样的学生,为他/她们写推荐提供素材。(见附件)

推荐信的目的和上章写到的个人作文非常相似,是为大学提供成绩单不能体现的学生的品质,比如 “personal charisma, character, original thought, humor, courage, and all of the other qualities that bring energy, depth, kindness, and cohesion to a community.”强有力的推荐信的特点和优秀的个人作文如出一辙,需要用实例,在500到800字内,生动地描画出申请人最突出的个性。(They need to be lean, direct and begins with details from the concrete world. They need to present as true and full and thoughtful a picture of the student as possible so the student becomes a living, breathing person in the mind of the college reader.)

麻省理工网站上有一篇介绍推荐信的文章,其中举例对比,非常形象地概括了大学在推荐信中寻找什么:

http://mitadmissions.org/apply/prepare/writingrecs

Writing Recommendations: A Guide To Writing Evaluations for MIT

Because of our highly competitive applicant pool, letters of recommendation hold substantial weight in our admissions decisions. A well-written letter for an outstanding applicant can highlight impressive characteristics beyond his/her own self-advocacy. We are looking for people who have and will make an impact – the difference between a letter that supports and a letter that raves about a special student.

Both guidance counselor and teacher evaluations are most helpful when they are specific and storied. They should provide us with the information and impressions we cannot glean from the rest of the application. Try to give a complete sketch of the student and the context of his/her accomplishments. Support your conclusions with facts and anecdotes whenever possible. A story or incident that conveys the character or merit of the individual is more telling than a mere statement like “Mary is mature.”

Try to address the following questions in your evaluation:

•What is the context of your relationship with the applicant? If you do not know the applicant well and are only able to write a brief summary, please acknowledge this.

•Has the student demonstrated a willingness to take intellectual risks and go beyond the normal classroom experience?

•Does the applicant have any unusual competence, talent or leadership abilities?

•What motivates this person? What excites him/her?

•How does the applicant interact with teachers? With peers? Describe his/her personality and social skills.

•What will you remember most about this person?

•If you have knowledge of MIT, what leads you to believe MIT is a good match for this person? How might he/she fit into the MIT community and grow from the MIT experience?

•Has the applicant ever experienced disappointment or failure? If so, how did he/she react?

•Are there any unusual family or community circumstances of which we should be aware?

Finally, please pay special attention to the opening and closing of your evaluation. Remember, we are reading 11,000 applications and we appreciate strong statements that we’ll remember as we evaluate each candidate. With that said, please write in a way that makes you feel comfortable and do not shy away from giving us your honest impressions. We are only looking for glowing superlatives if they are backed up with examples and give us context; what is behind a student’s achievements. Above all else, make sure to go beyond a student’s grades and academic performance. We can get this information from other parts of the application!

Examples Letters of Recommendation and Critiques

Teacher Recommendation for David:

It is a great pleasure for me to recommend David for admission to MIT. He is one of the most extraordinary students I have encountered in 20 years of teaching. I taught David A.P. Calculus last year as a tenth grader, and he was one of the very top students in an extremely able group of mostly seniors. He has a high aptitude for math and was very much involved in his work, applying himself with persistence and dedication and often going beyond the regular class assignments.

David’s abiding interest, however, is computer science. He has developed a series of “strands” for use in providing computerized drill and review in the basic skills and techniques of algebra and arithmetic, and has recently adapted these to other subjects. David’s work in this area has been so original and significant that he has published a paper on it and delivered several lectures to professionals in other parts of the country. This is a phenomenal accomplishment for anyone, especially a young man in rural Arkansas. It is also worth noting that both last year and this year David taught computer programming to a tenth grade class of mine for two weeks. He took over completely, preparing lectures, assignments, and tests with great care and thought. His lectures were clear and well organized, and it was obvious that he had expended a great deal of effort to make the course the success that it was.

David’s personal qualities are as impressive as his intellectual accomplishments. An extremely kind, sensitive and sensible boy, he has had a difficult family situation for a few years now. He provides emotional support to his mother through her battle with cancer without allowing the situation to undermine his own stability and accomplishments. He has exhausted all that we have to offer him in this small community, and the maturity that he has demonstrated leads me to believe him capable of entering college a year early, as he now plans to do. I sincerely hope that you will be able to offer him a place in MIT’s freshman class.

Critique: Excellent! This recommendation is filled with comments from someone who clearly knows this student well. We get a clear sense for not only David’s intellectual capacities, but also emotional maturity. His genuine love for computer programming comes through in this teacher’s description. We also realize that he is pushing academic boundaries in his community and making opportunities for himself – a trait that is especially important for a candidate seeking college admissions a year early.

Teacher Recommendation for Jen:

Jen was a student in one of my predominately senior physics classes. She took physics her junior year in high school and was a good student. Through hard work she was able to develop a good understanding of the subject material.

Jen also had personal qualities that are commendable. In the two years that I have known her I have never known her to be dishonest or untrustworthy. Once on an exam paper I had made a grading error in her favor. She brought this to my attention even though it resulted in a lower test grade.

In conclusion, I feel that Jen has both the academic and personal qualities to be a credit to the college of her choice, and I give her my recommendation without reservation.

Critique: We receive thousands of recommendations like this each year. It is all positive, but it doesn’t give any real depth to the candidate. In this instance, the reader is left feeling the writer is reaching for something to say. Honesty and trustworthiness are certainly admirable traits, but they are not uncommon among the nation’s top college applicants. We are looking for a compelling reason to admit someone, so information on class material does not help the candidate. Although Jen may be a hard worker, most of our applicants are. Although the comments are positive, it is difficult to grasp onto anything tangible to make this candidate’s case stronger. Was this faint praise intentional? How does Jen fare in comparison with other (more outstanding?) candidates at the school?

Guidance Counselor Recommendation for Mary:

Mary has contributed to the school community in a variety of ways, most notably through her participation on the newspaper and yearbook staffs. Frankly, I am impressed with her aggressiveness, creativity, determination and ability to schedule extracurricular activities around a full academic workload. I have never heard Mary complain about her workload or refuse any assignment that she has been given. It is not adequate to say that she accepts responsibility readily. She seeks responsibility. Oh, for more such students!

As business manager for the paper and co-editor of the yearbook the past two years, Mary has done an outstanding job. She personally brought the town’s business community from the view that the school newspaper was a charitable organization to the realization that the paper is a direct pipeline through which advertisers can reach students. She also took the initiative to set up the advertising rate schedule for the paper that produced enough revenue to expand coverage from a four-page paper, so that it is an eight-page and often twelve-page paper. Her work as photographer for both publications has been equally outstanding.

Her motivation is not forced upon her, nor does she wear it like a badge. She has tremendous self-discipline. Mary is also a dedicated, versatile and talented student who will be an asset to your undergraduate community. She has my respect and my highest recommendation.

Critique: Good. Lots of specifics here give us a very clear impression and help us to know why that impression is held. We have evidence of her newspaper directives and overall character.

Guidance Counselor Recommendation for Jane:

Jane is an outstanding young woman whose academic record may not fully reflect her ability. Her parents were divorced during her junior year, and, for several years before that, her home situation had been in turmoil with a great deal of fighting between her parents. Her father has an alcohol problem and Jane certainly endured a great deal of emotional distress. The fact that she has been able to do as well as she has done given the circumstances says a lot for her. Now that the home situation has stabilized, her performance has improved. I believe her senior year grades are a much better reflection of her ability.

Critique: You may wonder whether or not the above information is appropriate in a letter of evaluation. It is! We appreciate anything that gives us insight and perspective into a student’s performance and environment. Comments about problems that a student has experienced will help us understand the context in which they have accomplished whatever they have achieved. The extent to which they have dealt with these problems is useful to know as well.

Guidance Counselor Recommendation for Mike:

I do not really know Mike very well. He has come to me for routine matters, but generally has not had any problems that he has discussed with me. In this large school, I do not always have the time to personally get to know each of my advisees. From the comments I get from Mike’s teachers, I have the impression that he is one of the strongest students this school has seen.

Critique: We do not learn very much from this report, but we understand why. The counselor is very honest and we are not left guessing as to the reason there is not more information and will turn our attention to other parts of the application.

Teacher recommendation for Brian:

Brian was in the top five in my class consistently. He is certainly motivated to study. His character and personality are admirable. Brian is an excellent student, hard worker and has above average reasoning ability.

Critique: This is an example of an evaluation in which we really don’t know what the writer is trying to tell us. The comments provided certainly do not give much substantive information. We are left wondering whether there is just not much to say about this student or whether the teacher just didn’t bother to put much effort into the recommendation. This is a situation where we will probably form our impressions based on the pattern of all the recommendations. If all are equally uninformative, we will assume there wasn’t much to say, but if the others are better, we will assume this teacher did not give much effort to the recommendation.

附件 Appendix I: L. C. CANYON HIGH SCHOOL Brag Packet:

Private colleges and scholarship providers often ask for a letter of recommendation from your counselor. By completing this packet, you will assist your counselor in giving the evaluator a comprehensive picture of who you are. The quality and depth of the letter depends on the information you provide. Please note: UC and CSU schools DO NOT require ANY letters of recommendation.

Steps to Securing a Counselor Letter of Recommendation:

This packet includes the following:

o College/Scholarship List – indicating the colleges to which you will apply

o Student Information Sheet – include as much information as possible!

o Parent Recommendation

o A “Permission to Release” Form

o Informal Teacher Recommendation Forms (give to 2 teachers who know you well)

1. Complete and distribute each piece of the Letter of Recommendation Packet. See each form for instructions.

ENVELOPES

2. Prepare a pre-addressed, pre-stamped (3 stamps) envelope (manila-size 9X12 –no metal clasp) for every college to which you plan to apply. These are for your counselor to send all the needed forms to the colleges, (for example, school report form, transcripts, letter, etc.) Label the return address with: LCCHS, c/o 710 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, CA 92024

SECONDARY SCHOOL REPORTS

3. For each college that requires a counselor recommendation, the student will provide his/her counselor with: the appropriate counselor evaluation form provided by the college aka Secondary School Report Form. Please complete and sign the student section on the form found in each college application or print it from the online application.

MID YEAR REPORTS

4. Some private colleges require that a Mid-Year Report Form be sent after first semester ends. Please check your paper or online application for each college that you are applying to for a mid-year report form. For each form, include a letter size envelope with two stamps, addressed to the college/university that it needs to be mailed to.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

5. Put ALL of these materials in a large, manila envelope with your name on it and turn it into the counseling secretaries. The teacher portion will be returned directly to your counselor. Your packet will not be accepted unless it is fully completed. Please also include copies of your potential college essay/s if possible.

WHO DOES WHAT?

If you request a counselor letter of recommendation,

Your counselor will send the following to EACH college:

• Your “Official” High School Transcript -with your current course schedule

• An LCC School Profile

• A letter of recommendation

• The Secondary School Report Form for the college – if required

YOU are responsible for:

• Submitting your application and fee to each college before the deadline

• Requesting your official test scores be sent to EACH individual college you are applying to.

– SAT I, SAT subject tests and AP scores- go to www.collegeboard.com

– ACT – go to www.actstudent.org

DEADLINE

The Brag Packet must be turned into the counseling secretaries no later than December 5th, but preferably sooner.

Early Action/Early Decision Applicants: Your packet must be submitted to the counseling secretaries at least 2 weeks prior to the college application deadline.

REMINDER: All materials are due to the counselor at least 2 weeks before the application deadline.

Family Background Information

Parent’s/Guardians Name (with whom you are living)____________________________

Father’sOccupation___________________Employer__________________________

Mother’s Occupation__________________Employer__________________________

Number of siblings___________________ Gender/Ages_______________________

If your parents/guardians graduated from college, where did they graduate from?

Mother: ________________________________ Father: _________________________________

Is financial aid a factor in your college decision? If so, please explain: __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Have you ever been suspended or expelled from any high school? ____Yes____No

If yes, please explain on a separate sheet of paper and attach it to this packet.

Student Information

What majors or fields of study are you considering? ___________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Explain briefly why you have chosen this major and/or career.____________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

What would you consider to be your areas of academic strength? Why?_____________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Extracurricular Activities

Discuss in detail any activities you have been involved in that you are proud of. Be specific about what you did or accomplished. ________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Describe any volunteer or paid work experience you have._______________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Describe any special talents you have.______________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Additional Information: What things make you unique? How would you distinguish yourself from other students in the senior class?______________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

If you had a low grade in a particular class/semester/year because of an extenuating circumstance, please explain the situation.__________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Describe an event or activity (positive or negative) that has had the most significant impact on your life and has shaped you as a person. Why?_________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Pick three adjectives that you believe describe who you are and describe why you selected them: 1._______________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________

2._______________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________

3._______________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________

Parent/Guardian Brag Sheet

Your student is applying for entrance to a private college and/or for a scholarship which requires a counselor to prepare a comprehensive letter of recommendation to accompany the application/s. As you answer the following questions, please think about what you would want the admissions office to know about your child that they would not be able to gather from only school records and the college application.

1. What do you consider to be your student’s most outstanding character/personality traits & why?

2. Please give me your candid comments on your student’s academic strengths & weaknesses?

3. Describe any specific (significant) life experiences your student has had that have affected who he/she is today. For example, a divorce in the family, a foreign exchange experience they had, a particular experience that enriched their life, etc.

4. Tell about anything else you feel the counselor should know to have an accurate “picture” of your student.

Please return this sheet to your student as they need to turn it in to their counselor with the remaining forms of their brag packet. Also, please feel free to use additional space or you may attach a separate letter. Thank you! ~ LCC Counselors

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