Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Little Chutzpah

I just finished writing a reccomendation letter for a student who took my course in the Fall, dropped out of my institution, applied to the local community college (she wanted a recc from me for that, see here), and now wants out of the local community college and wants into our competitor, Huge Teaching U.

Let me get this right, you want me to help you get into our competitor's program and you are not even my student anymore? That's bretty brave. Ok, I'll do it. 'Cause I'm THAT nice, dammit.

I also saw the worst recc letter of my life today. It caused me to draw in my breath sharply. One of my colleagues "did not reccommend" a student for med school. And colleague knew student well. It was pretty blunt. I'm cringing just thinking of it.


  1. The do not recommend letter writing is the worst. Its pretty much a kiss of death in most cases. Except we had an incoming grad student who originally worked as a technician here get torched by his former boss in the letter but we still took him anyways. Turns out, the boss was right, the kid is not going to make it.

  2. "did not reccommend." Wow. I thought you were supposed to tell the student you couldn't write them a good letter couldn't write them a good letter.

  3. I think Colleague did tell Student. Colleague told Student that we couldn't recommend Stu for a program that was entirely inappropriate for Stu's abilities and motivation level. Colleague drafted two letters, a decent one for good match, and a scorching one for bad match. I couldn't have done a scorching one myself. I would have just been very non-committal and bland.

    I worked with this colleague before on a letter for a student I was less-than impressed with, and Colleague scratched out an honest and semi-nice one - that Student's application was successful.

  4. As far as your letter, why do you care if stu wants to go to another college? I never think of colleges as competing - that just seems odd to me. Assuming stu was good and just trying to find the right fit, it seems totally reasonable to me to ask for a letter from a past prof in order to get into another school. Hub has written several letters for students going from his PUI to big research U and is excited for the opportunities they will have. If stu did poorly in your class or is floating from school to school aimlessly then say you can't write the letter.

  5. Good point Anon 6:16. Stu wasn't looking good to get into our program, so decided to go into a lower programs, but then became ambitious and decided to go into the program across town. My grunching is only because of the workload it adds, not because I don't want Stu to succeed. Even if I were being selfish, Stu getting into their program and not ours would be a little satisfying about the selectivity of our program.

    Maybe some of it comes from a (false?) pride I have about our program... that I truly believe Stu would get a better education here, and that Stu may be shooting his/herself in the foot by giong elsewhere. So If I'm going to bat for Stu, I'd rather be doing so to my own colleagues than the folks across town. 'Tis tru we cost more, tho!