Academy LOR from a Peer - What's the Risk?

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by ForGod&Country, Jan 18, 2016.

  1. ForGod&Country

    ForGod&Country Member

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    My DS has 4 LORs in his USNA file and we have room for 1 more. Our AC said if we choose to submit a 5th one that it should be unique. So far we have counselor, math teacher, science teacher and USNA grad. For our final LOR we are considering using one of my DS's classmates or a supervisor. We are leaning toward using the classmate. I'd be interested in experiences, thoughts, perspectives on this approach as well as other ideas. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. EOD/SEALmom

    EOD/SEALmom Member

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    I would choose a supervisor over a peer. The supervisor will share perspective of the how the candidate is perceived in the workplace, professionalism, work ethics, etc.

    What exactly could the peer write about for USNA? "My buddy here is great to hang with....we saw Star Wars over Christmas break...work out together....I've known him/her since kindergarten...insert peer pump-up here"

    I'm not saying that a great letter wouldn't be written, just that I would imagine USNA is looking more for an outside perspective. I think a peer letter would have about as much weight as a letter from grandma, you know?

    My DD had letters from her math teacher, English teacher/track coach, her Lieutenant at Sea Cadets, and her boss at work. One last letter was from a Marine she worked with at a field ops training, but he was deployed shortly after that training and I'm not sure if he wrote it or not (he's still deployed).
     
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  3. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    With all due respect, your AC is giving you bad advice. Skip the 5th letter. In fact, you probably should have skipped the 4th. USNA mandates recs from a candidate's math and English teacher, your BGO and basically an endorsement of activities from a school official. Period. (You mentioned science teacher vs. English so I'm assuming your DS received dispensation from his Regional Director or other person in Admissions to substitute LORs; otherwise, he will be penalized for not following instructions.)

    USNA accepts other letters with the unspoken huge caveat that they bring something new to the table. In most cases, this occurs because the candidate's only/primary ECA is outside of school, the candidate works to help support the family so has no ECAs and gets the LOR from the employer, or the recommender can comment about some aspect of a candidate's life that would not be known to the required recommenders.

    Additional letters that don't meet that standard aren't going to be helpful and, in fact, will probably just annoy Admissions. Why? Two reasons. First, because they aren't adding anything new. We all know they're going to say some version of the following: I've known Johnnie (or Janie) since he was X years old. He is a wonderful young man. He's smart, athletic, a terrific leader, kind to animals, helps little old ladies cross the street, etc . He's wanted to attend USNA since he was old enough to understand the words and wants to be a Naval/Marine Corps officer more than anyone in the world. And so on. Not helpful. Seriously.

    Second reason is that USNA receives about thousands of completed applications each year. If that number is 5,000, that means 15,000 REQUIRED LORs they have to read. If every one of those ~5000 candidates submitted 2-3 extra letters (that say nothing new), that means USNA has to read another 10,000-15,000 letters about how wonderful little Johnnie/Janie is.

    Finally, almost the last thing USNA wants to read is a letter from you DS' high school classmate. (I can think of a couple rare examples where such a letter might be appropriate but only a couple). What is a 17-yr-old going to add to the equation?

    Folks, LORs are not about volume; they're about content. If LORs from a candidate's teachers (most important) and BGO (important but less so b/c of the more limited time for knowing the candidate) aren't strong, the extra ones won't make any difference unless they are able to convey completely new information. And those situations are very rare.
     
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  4. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    Completely agree with usna1985. BGOs are instructed in their manual to discourage any extra LOR other than the Math and English teacher submissions via email with the exception of the unique circumstances listed above. That BGO AC needs refresher training.
     
  5. ForGod&Country

    ForGod&Country Member

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    Welcome input from all. Thanks. Agreed that at increased workload of the same message for the board to review could dilute the message in the application. Not sure DS wants to be "that guy". The issue seems whether or not something "new and substantive" can be brought to the application about the candidate. Since he didn't see the other letters he tried to think of other individuals that may bring something unique to the application and help paint the most comprehensive picture of him. I'd like to think that the application has those three individuals (counselor, Math and English) there for reason - they should be able to speak to enough of a candidate's characteristics/qualifications for the Board to make an informed decision. I think the other message here is choose wisely those you ask to write the letters.

    BTW - I misspoke and the LORs are from Counselor, Math and English (not science). A note of clarification for those that may be wondering about the AC's advice - they never proactively suggested that my DS submit 5 letters; they only stated that if he chose to submit additional ones above the 3 that they should contain something unique that no one else would say about him.
     
  6. Sydney C.

    Sydney C. Member

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    [QUOTE=" Since he didn't see the other letters [/QUOTE]

    No one except admissions sees the requisite letters from the Math and English teachers
     
  7. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    USNA's presumption is that English and math teachers can typically speak to the following about a candidate: academic prowess, motivation and interest; leadership in and out of the classroom; athletic participation; character; school activities; civic responsibilities; achievements; personal hardships, etc. The BGO can speak to the candidate's interest/motivation for USNA and the military, responsibility, leadership potential, personal hardships, unique circumstances (e.g., changing schools many times), etc. That doesn't leave much for extra recommenders to discuss.

    It's not a matter of dilution of other LORs. The issue is whether there is something so unique about a candidate's circumstances that the three required reviewers can't speak to the above characteristics. As noted, if the candidate isn't active in school-based activities at all (for whatever reason) but is VERY active in some other activity (e.g. religious, scouting, paid work during school year), it could be helpful for a leader of that activity to provide an LOR.

    Here's an example: candidate is extremely active in swimming outside of high school. In fact, the candidate not only swims competitively year round but all his/her ECAs involve swimming and don't occur in the school environment (e.g., working with Special Olympics swimmers, giving swimming lessons to kids, working as a lifeguard, etc.). Teachers may know this occurs but aren't in a good position to comment and the BGO can't learn enough in one interview to comment effectively. In this case, ONE recommendation from someone in the "swim community" would factually add something to the application.

    To be clear, this doesn't mean that, if a candidate is active at school and also an Eagle Scout, the scout leader should write a LOR. The fact the kid earned Eagle Scout speaks for itself. It is the very rare situation where there is a need to explain an unusual situation and none of the mandatory recommenders, including the BGO, can adequately do so.

    The fact is that three letters are sufficient for almost every applicant. Sending an extra one or (worse) more -- from an Admiral/General, a USNA grad, a neighbor, a coach, a family friend, another teacher, etc. -- is virtually certain to provide no added benefit. I understand that candidates want to err on the side of doing everything they can to secure an appointment. However, even if the additional LOR suggests the candidate is ready for immediate sainthood, it's not going to help unless it factually adds something new.
     
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