Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On Lame College Recommendation Letters

What's up with college recommendation letters being so lame?

I'm not talking about the content; I'm talking about the format.

Thinking about this as I'm working on the letter of a student who's written an occasionally brilliant blog in class over the last two years. I'm considering the irony of trying to express in a paragraph ultimately to be printed out on a sheet of paper what it is that I find so compelling about her blogging.

It doesn't have to be like this.

If I can handle relatively complex tasks such as managing my bank account and submitting grades online, I sure as heck ought to be able to submit a letter of recommendation online.

A letter full of links to succinct examples of what it is that I'm trying to describe in my blathering prose. A letter including screenshots of projects, audio of class presentations illustrating what I mean when I say that the student has an 'accessible manner of explaining complex ideas to her peers', snippets of Twitter conversations we've had in class demonstrating the student's leadership capacity and capacity for asking probing questions.

Stuff that doesn't fit on paper.

So what say ye, college admissions officers? Ready to enter the 21st century?


  1. College admission officers need to be the "life long learners" that they wish their students to become. Furthermore, the use of different media on the web may give a more accurate and complete picture of the applicant as a student and a person. What's more, a multimedia presentation could provide you with more information on a person in less time! College admissions officers should take advantage of digital portfolios.

  2. What? You can't even email them in as a PDF file? that's just wrong!

  3. I thought the new "common app" form let you do it online? Our guidance counselor sent something out last week, but I haven't been asked to do one yet.

  4. FYI-
    The new "common app" form does allow for PDF attachments. Some institutions (University of Michigan for example) have actually entered the 21st century & allow high school teachers to add PDF docs to the overall student recommendation & evaluation. (I just filled one out for a student last week).

  5. I appreciate the work of all people who share information with others.


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