Recommendations play a large part in a college acceptance. Here RCDS students are at a distinct advantage. The faculty knows the students far better than most public schools, or even large private schools, do. This, of course, is a double-edged sword. RCDS students have been heard to say that “the teachers know us far TOO well”, but that is something that contributes to the writing of a meaningful, rich recommendation.
Most colleges require three recommendations, one the standard “guidance” recommendation, which we call the student profile, and two academic references from teachers who have taught the applicant in 10th, 11th and/or 12th grade.
Students coming up in the upper school can start thinking about those teachers that they might want to have write recommendations for them. We ask students to approach two teachers during the junior year and request recommendations from them. Once again, this is something that the college advisor will work on with each individual student.
Students often want to know if they can ask someone from outside of the school, someone they have worked with, a teacher from a previous school, an employer or a friend of the family. We advise them to keep recommendations to a minimum and to follow the college’s guidelines. Anything else may be detrimental to the application, given the volume of paper work with which college admissions offices are inundated. Again, this is something that students will discuss with the college advisor in private, as everyone has a slightly different case and needs a slightly different adjustment.
Our individual student profile is quite different from the guidance recommendation written elsewhere. The writer will get information from all the student’s teachers as well as from the student him or herself, will explore the student’s past both at RCDS and outside, and then write a profile that will create the student for the college. A typical profile runs from two to three pages and is an in-depth presentation of that student, one that can make all the difference for the student’s application. It doesn’t attempt to portray the student in a sanitized or unrealistic light; rather, it denotes accomplishments, accentuates strengths and explains shortcomings, which will, of course, be highly visible elsewhere in a student’s record. Many a college has told us that the recommendations and profile made the difference a student’s successful application.