Learning For Life

Any Recommendations For Letters Of Recommendation? A Year Later!

My youngest daughter's now a freshman at college, but it seems like only yesterday that she was in the midst of the college application process. So, when Black and I recently featured "Thank You For Sharing!!!" from a College & Career Readiness Counselor about my approach to letters of recommendation, I realized it was probably worth "rerunning" for those students and parents going through the challenges of college selection. (Trust me, you'll get through it … but remember to enjoy this time as once they start college you'll miss these days.)

Well, my younger daughter, Sawyer, is a high school senior. And it's November. Which means that we're in the midst of the college application process. It's exciting. It's also very stressful. So, I thought I'd share a few tips that I've recently learned in the hope you'll find them useful. But first a disclaimer!


I'm definitely not a college admissions expert and it's been decades since I applied to college. (I used a typewriter to complete my applications!) And even though this list isn't definitive, I think these items alone could make a big difference.

  1. LEAVE AMPLE TIME – Even if you can write an award-winning essay the night before it's due, you can't expect others to do the same.
  2. BE STRATEGIC – This critical first step is often overlooked. Decide what you want to highlight (experience, skills, personal traits, etc.), write them down, and then identify people who can talk about that side of you.
  3. SELECT PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOU WELL –The wider the range of people, the better. You're looking for people who know you so well, they can talk about your qualities in a way that brings you and your personal story (we all have one) "to life."
  4. REVIEW THE REQUIREMENTS – Letters of recommendation usually fall into two categories – Teachers and Other. However, different schools have different parameters, so check the instructions carefully.
  5. MAKE THE "ASK" – Let them know why you picked them, why you value their insight, what you'd love for them to focus on (most people appreciate some guidance vs. staring at a blank sheet of paper) and last, but not least, make sure you properly thank them!
  6. TRACK AND, IF NECESSARY, FOLLOW UP (nicely, of course) – Ok, please tell me this is self-explanatory.
  7. YOU'RE ACCEPTED INTO COLLEGE! – Send a thank you to everyone who took the time to write a letter for you. It can be a short note, but let them know they were an important part of the admissions process. Trust me, it will only take you a few minutes but it will be remembered by them for a very long time.

I wondered what Black thought about Letters of Recommendation, so I asked her. As always, she had a different perspective and provided insight as the person either writing or reviewing recommendation letters. She then commented that her thoughts might help you create a better "ask."

  • It should be clear that the author of the letter knows the student and WHY they were selected to provide a recommendation.
  • Academic achievements and technical skills are important, but emphasis should also be placed on soft skills (things like communication skills, leadership, problem solving, teamwork).
  • Visually, the letter should be easy to skim and still identity key points.

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Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they’re using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created “Conversation Starters”.


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I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year, especially since last year was the first since Mom passed away, and the dining room table seemed incomplete. Which may partially explain why we ended up sitting around the kitchen table and island instead. And that was wonderful – so relaxed, easy, and fun – but I still couldn’t help but think of her not being with us. It’s funny because, over the years, even as life changed, such as the girls growing up and going off to college, I’ve always taken for granted that Thanksgiving would somehow always remain the same, cooking the same dishes, with all the preparation beginning days in advance.

So, I'm not sure that I truly stopped and appreciated each Thanksgiving Day as I was so focused on everything I needed to get done. This year, though, I plan to take a moment to stop and think about some of the things I'm thankful for, and to start appreciating the day itself. To try to "be present", so to speak, in the present.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

I know that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, but what you just described is gratitude. Gratitude is "deeper" than thankfulness, and the best way I can describe it is … think about when you might write a thank you note – someone gives you something or does something for you. It is a fleeting event. Now think about if you were to write someone a note or letter of appreciation.

You have repeatedly told me that mere mortals often need reminders, so what if this Thanksgiving you start a "gratitude habit"? Make a daily appointment with yourself to find a few quiet moments and write down at least one thing for which you are grateful. It can be as simple as sunlight on your face or the crunch of an apple. You are probably rolling your eyes right now, but it will only take a few minutes and can change your life. Or, at least, how you look at it.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • If you look back, what or who would you appreciate (or appreciate more) that you didn’t at the time?
  • If you begin to appreciate the value of appreciation (pun intended), what might you want to be mindful of going forward?
  • Do you think a "gratitude habit" might be useful? Would you be willing to "test-drive" (Black's words) one for a month and see if your opinion changes? Explain your answers.


People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".

No one likes to feel out of control, unprepared, and scared. But as Red will tell you, life can change in an instant (whether it’s a crisis impacting many or one that seems very personal). She’ll also tell you that when everything seems so negative, it’s difficult to have a positive mindset (or even a non-emotional perspective) …



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In some ways, it seems like decades ago that my husband got fired, in other ways it seems like yesterday. I felt then so many of the same emotions that people are going through today due to the coronavirus. I was so scared. And unprepared. At the time, I thought he'd work for the company where he had been for years until he retired, and by then we'd have a second home and would live happily ever after. I never thought anything would change that plan. Everything was perfect, until my life, literally overnight, became a living nightmare.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io





Yes, and as I told you at the time … you needed to calm down. I said that a lot. Still do. Anyway, I remember telling you to take a deep breath … and that you would get through it. And, you did. Although you constantly questioned whether you had the ability to do so.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS
  • Your life can change in an instant. Can you be prepared? How can you plan for the unknown?
  • What are other unplanned life events?

It’s hot and humid, and we’re all tired and cranky. But if there are kids involved (and even if there aren’t) and you’re looking for something to get you through what’s left of the summer before school starts, check out my list below. (The funny thing is, even though it’s a few years old, it still applies. I guess some things never change.) And who knows, some of them just might have you feeling like a kid again, too.

When I suggested to Black that we have a checklist or menu of items to amuse or, at least, occupy kids over the summer (something that almost every parent with kids home on summer break searches for every year), I thought my work was already done as I'd pull out the list I created years ago for my daughters. Except that I forgot it had been on a computer that no longer exists, and although a copy might be somewhere in a stack of filing, I'd have to start over. Which turned out to be a good thing …

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