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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How many college recommendations?

I just finished sending off 104 college recommendations this week.

How many?

Yes, 104. And that was in addition to 21 “early action” recommendations that I sent out earlier in the fall.

But before you conclude that that’s a ridiculously large amount of work for a teacher to have to do, especially during vacation, you need to look at the rest of the story. First of all, these 125 recommendations come from only 13 seniors (all of whom took my honors precalculus class last year), so you can see that they average nearly 10 apiece. That means writing only 13 letters (printed out many times, with each copy signed and stuffed into the appropriate stamped envelopes) and answering only 13 questionnaires (scanned in, and similarly printed out and stuffed). Actually, it’s a tad more complicated than that, since there are still a few colleges that don’t use the Common Application that makes it so easy for high-school seniors to apply to a large number of places, but it’s still basically true.

For each of these students, the total number of applications ranged from 5 to 16. This is Weston, after all. It was the total number of distinct colleges that these students applied to that surprised me a bit: 57. The reason that this surprised me wasn’t the specific number (the famous Heinz number) but the fact that it was so high. In the past, students in honors math courses at Weston tended to apply to the same relatively small number of colleges. But things have changed: it’s now much harder to get into any particular competitive college than it used to be, and as a result it’s unpredictable whether a perfectly qualified student will get admitted to his or her first choice, or second choice, or third choice...

So don’t be horrified by the task of writing 125 recommendations — just by the amount of printing, signing, and envelope-stuffing required.

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