Fall in Palo Alto is a pleasant season, marred perhaps by only one thing: college applications. These digital stress packages inconvenience everyone they touch — from students, to parents, to teachers. The typical application requires one or more letters of recommendation from high school instructors, imposing a burden on them.
In addition to teaching class, rec writers must commit time to describing the unique and favorable facets of anywhere from one to several dozen students.
The Campanile understands this difficult task and sympathizes with those who must take it up. However, it is critical to remember two major perspectives — that of the recommender and that of the recommendee — in this time-consuming process. With a barrage of extra responsibilities tacked on to their regular duties, teachers may push the limit of the application deadline. As will students. And yet the anxiety (on both sides) of letting the clock tick cannot be overemphasized.
Indeed, most seniors now know a particular feeling of despair at the sight of the the Common Application’s “Recommenders and FERPA Section” displaying those fateful words: Not started.
There is no solution to over-scheduling, but there is something of a reliever for rec pressure. Increased communication will carry the day, especially for toning down students’ nerves. While it might be an inconvenience for teachers to write an email every now and then for many students, the generic nature of these correspondences (“I’m currently working on your rec, it should be done soon,” etc.) should put applicants at ease.
Of course, there is an uncrossable line in this situation. Many seniors have been told by their advisors to hound recommenders with consistent verbal check-ins. Frankly, this practice is detrimental to both parties, and solely serves to fray the bond between teacher and student, a bond integral to the recommendation process itself. Clocking in with a simple email exchange every other week would more than temper the extremes of communication and lack thereof.
At the end of the day, the whole affair boils down to teamwork. There has never been a group, from politics to professional sports, that has prospered without polite communication — that postulate extends over high school too. Being in what is essentially the same boat should bring staff and students closer together, not drive them apart with stress and friction.
So here’s to finishing up app season with lighter hearts and fewer struggles.