Thursday, July 29, 2010

Committee Recc Letters

For certain professional and graduate programs, we write committee letters for students. This may be stating the obvious, but some of my colleagues are better letter writers than others. No one TRULY stinks, but from proofing my colleagues' work over the years, I have come to the conclusion that either I'm the second-best or tied for first-best writer in the bunch. I'm not counting the funky prepositions that our non-native speakers use, but the tone, order, formality, structure, etc.

You can take this all with the degree of "grain of salt" that matches your thoughts of my blog writing. :)

Anyway, I proofed one today that spent a huuuge paragraph on how the student wasn't the brightest guy on campus, but Stu's work ethic and how hard he worked made up for it [intentional]. Ummm, Stu had a 3.95/4.0 in a rigorous program and was one of the sharpest students in my class. What I think happened was that the letter writer was paraphrasing what the student wrote in Stu's statements, something Colleague shouldn't do if Stu has been in _three_ of Colleague's (very small) classes. First, students/ human beings/ successful people (in particular) overestimate their efforts and underestimate their luck and talent. And second, 5 sentences making Stu out to be a grind is wayyyyyy too much in a 1.5 page letter. For such a talented student!

Don't get me wrong, we are honest in our letters. If Stu has a weakness, we mention it clearly, but emphasize the positive. In any case, Colleague's letter was covered in red by the time I sent it back. I hope Colleague doesn't take it personally. This is a small place and we have to work well with each other to survive.

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