Thursday, February 3, 2011

Letters Of Recommendation. To Ask Or Not To Ask?

I'm in the throes of the process of researching elementary schools these days. I know a lot more about the process now than when we applied to preschools (thanks in large part to sites like Beyond The Brochure and The School Boards). I've posted often about preschools and the process that goes on here in LA and I hope you've found it useful. Christina, from Beyond The Brochure, recently posted a really helpful answer to a reader's question about getting letters of recommendation on her blog and, with her permission, I wanted to share it with you all because I thought it was so insightful.

The Letter Please!
Reader Question: Asking (Reluctant) Friends For Letters Of Recommendation

Question: My friend seems reluctant to write us a letter of recommendation for a school that is very hard to get into. Our friend says it is because her family has been resistant to one of the school's most important programs and she doesn't want to hurt our chances of getting in. What should we do?

Answer: This is an interesting question! In my experience—and the experience of many of my friends—this happens more often than you might expect. You may be hoping a friend will say “yes” right away and quickly write you a glowing letter of recommendation. Instead, the friend hesitates, seems reluctant, or just says “no.” 

Now that I’m a mom who gets asked to write letters for families applying to The Willows, I have a better understanding of what’s really going on.
  • It could be that our reader’s friend is being truthful and is not on good terms with the school’s administration. It happens! If that’s the situation, you probably should not have them write you a letter.
  • A family may have been asked to write letters for 3 or 4 families at the same time. They may only want to write 1 or 2 letters to avoid seeming like they are recommending everyone they know without being selective. It may take some convincing to let them know you’re serious about the school. You can also tell them that if accepted, you will enroll your child. But, only if it’s true. Lying to friends isn’t cool and could ruin your friendship. Your friend will be putting their reputation at stake if they promise the school you’ll enroll. Then, if you change your mind, they will be left embarrassed and furious at you. They will have to apologize to the admissions director.
  • This may be the first time your friend has ever been asked to write a letter (especially if they are new to the school). This is where sample letters of recommendation are a huge help. We include several real examples in [our book] Beyond The Brochure. Offer to write the letter for your friend and have them edit it. That will help!
  • Some schools discourage letters of recommendation--or even prohibit them. If this is the case, abide by the school policy. 
  • Your friend may not think your child is a good fit for the school. Or, they may wonder if you’ll be happy as a parent there. This probably won’t be discussed with you. They will just make up reasons why they can’t write a letter for you. If you get the feeling they are reluctant, move on to somebody else. 
To read the rest of Christina's advice, click here to go to Beyond The Brochure.

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach
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