It’s time for current high school juniors to begin thinking about their college admission journey. At this point, there are still so many unknowns. Will the class of 2022 be able to secure testing? Will schools across the country continue to adopt a test optional policy? How will this year’s cycle impact next year’s cycle?
What remains constant in the review process is the weight that letters of recommendations hold. These letters written by teachers and counselors provide an additional lens for admissions officers to get to know the applicant, putting the broader application packet into context. And they can speak to a student’s character – something that test scores will never be able to do. But with so many schools either operating remotely or employing a hybrid model, forging relationships through a screen is challenging, but it’s not impossible. I have reached out to several teachers and counselors to ask them for their input Here is some of their advice:
Jossie Forman, an 11th grade math teacher at Baruch College Campus High School in New York City who writes about 30 letters of recommendation per year says, “ I appreciate when kids reach out to set up one on one meetings when they do not understand a concept. Also it, of course, helps when students keep their cameras on and volunteer to speak and share ideas out loud. I generally like when I can talk about how students can advocate for themselves academically. That definitely looks different this year but sending emails to teachers to ask for help and setting up meetings is great too. I have also really appreciated when kids email about a class just to talk about something interesting similar to how a student might stay after school or after class to talk about something.”
Rebecca Park, a history teacher for seniors at Leaders High School, also in New York City, advises students “to participate in class as much as possible, to take advantage of any office hour type things and join extracurricular clubs with teachers you like.” Meghan Sullivan, a high school counselor at Beachwood High School agrees with Ms. Park’s advice about joining a club with a current teacher. She adds that “these meetings are often more casual and relaxed than class and can be an opportunity to get to know more about a teacher and tell them more about you.” Ms Sullivan also says that “if a teacher is offering office hours or other ways to communicate outside of class, use them! They offer them because they want students to connect, so never feel like you are bothering them by asking questions.It can be helpful to remember that the teachers are struggling with many of the same things you are – internet issues, stress about school being so different, missing ‘normal’ life, seeing friends. going places, etc. – so be honest about your own struggles, and they will likely understand more than you may realize.” Ms Sullivan also suggests to find out how a teacher prefers to communicate outside of class and use that method. Ask them if they prefer email or if talking on the phone would be better (Don’t be afraid of the phone, it can offer much more conversational give and take than an email!)
Above all, the common thread is clear – get out there, make an effort, and be as engaged as you can be in these (yes I am going to say it) UNPRECEDENTED TIMES.