Navigating through letters of recommendation during distance learning

Without the typical resources and connections with teachers, it is important for seniors to be prepared for their college application journey

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Maggie Delaney

When applying to colleges, students must “invite” their wanted recommenders to the application website.

As seniors in Granite Bay High are now fully invested in college applications, it has come time to ask for letters of recommendation. 

These letters are a big part of the application process as they allow colleges to see how teachers and counselors view the students and their growth. 

The counseling department at GBHS has a helpful list of how to approach letters of recommendation on their website.

The Princeton Review also has some helpful information regarding letters of recommendation.

The breakdown of how letters of recommendation work is simple, although it is easier said than done. 

Seniors needing letters of recommendation should be well prepared before they even ask for a recommendation. This means filling out the personal profile.

The personal profile is a great way to let your teachers and counselors get to know you outside of school. For example, a student may want to highlight their passion for recycling or mountain biking, hobbies recommenders would otherwise not be aware of. Such activities outside of school can help build a well rounded application. 

Another huge part of a quality recommendation letter is knowing who to ask. 

Senior Paloma Garcia recently asked some of her past teachers for letters of recommendation.

“I knew that I wanted a letter from the field of study that I plan to major in,” Garcia said.  “I also wanted a letter from a humanities class to show other aspects of my academics. Fortunately, some of my teachers that are willing to write a letter have had me in their class for a year, or in freshman year then again in junior year. So, these teachers have seen me grow as a student and as a person, which makes them a great resource.” 

Fortunately, some of my teachers that are willing to write a letter have had me in their class for a year, or in freshman year then again in junior year. So, these teachers have seen me grow as a student and as a person, which makes them a great resource.”

— Paloma Garcia

The next step is to ask teachers for letters of recommendation well in advance. The Princeton Review compares asking for letters to homework assignments. 

“(It is) basically assigning your teachers homework. In addition to giving them plenty of notice, (a student)  must also send them all the materials they need to write a great letter,” stated a Princeton Review article.

In a normal school year, students would be able to ask their recommenders in person, but many are unable to currently do so due to distance learning.   

“If we were in a normal year of school, I would have asked in person.” Garcia said. 

While both GBHS students, teachers  and counselors are doing their best, not being able to ask in person has added a bit of stress for students. 

“For me, it was stressful to figure out if they had read or received (my) email when they did not respond within a few days,” senior Megan Panicker said. 

Due to these worries, the counseling department at GBHS has organized some new ways to provide help and communication to seniors in need of assistance. Navjot Singh, a counselor at GBHS, explained all the different methods of communication employed during quarantine. 

“We still have all of our students communicate with us via email and… google meet,” Singh said. “We also have Virtual Senior College Application Support available every other Monday on Zoom from 2-3pm. All this information is located in our Senior Google Classroom Class of 2021.”

Although letters of recommendations are only one part of college applications, they are extremely helpful in giving insight into a student, beyond their grades and standardized test scores. At GBHS, teachers and counselors have worked to provide as much help and resources as possible to make this process less stressful.

 “We are here for our seniors,” Singh said, “especially as they navigate through the college application process.”

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