Imposing Letters of Recc

Discussion in 'Service Academy Parents' started by officer, Apr 24, 2009.

  1. officer

    officer Member

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    Parents-

    My son is applying to the USCGA next year which does not require a nomination. However, we have to make our back-up plan with the other academies. How do we ask for so many letters/forms of recommendation with out imposing on people. From what I can see, this is how it stands:

    I already asked for letters from pastor, swim coach, music teacher to get into the USCGA summer program.

    Now for nominations: (2) senators and (1) representative, which each wants there own questions answered on their specific forms.

    Last, another recommendation to the actual academy for admission.

    So by my count, that is (5) letters from pastor, from swim coach, and from music teacher---EACH!. How do you all handle this? I don't want to impose on them. That is SO MANY letters. :eek: -officer
     
  2. Livinlarger

    Livinlarger Member

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    My wife and I talked about this as well. The way we are viewing it is that it actually one letter, addressed to 5 different people. They will all talk about character, determination, etc... and the saulation changes (Senator - - - , Representative - - - -, etc..)

    At least this is how we are advising our daughter to approach it.
     
  3. Jacksmom

    Jacksmom Member

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    Here's what we did

    Hi,

    My son's reference letters were addressed: "To Whom It May Concern", and each reference sent us ten signed copies, as well as an email copy. We asked for general reference recommendations and asked that they speak to our son's character, abilities, etc. We were able to use the letters for each member of congress, the academies, college applications, honors program applications, scholarship applications--etc.

    For what it's worth--he did receive nominations to both academies to which he applied, but no appointments. He was even complimented upon the strength of his recommendations during his congressional interview, so the "To Whom It May Concern" did not hurt anything.

    His recommendations came from his baseball coach, Pastor and Math teacher and we also had a "spare" his swim coach.

    Best of luck to you!!
     
  4. dtkdarnoc

    dtkdarnoc Member

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    One thing we did was to retype each of the questionnaires from the nominating sources. The questions are similar, and in this way, your respondents are much more likely to be able to cut and paste. The questionnaires were originally .pdf's, which are a pain for your people to manipulate.

    Also, he included a copy of the resume kid worked from in his application. For example, a school board member ran triathlons with him, but didn't know about the community service aspects of his personality. This facilitated discussion which went further into the recommendation letter/forms.

    The last piece of the equation was the fact that the academy asked for 2 or 3 letters, which were specifically requested to be from math teacher, etc. In our son's case, the math teacher knew that he did well in the class, was a nice kid, but knew nothing of him outside of class. So he sent in the nominating source questionnaires/letters as well.

    Because this process is a black hole, for the most part, we have no idea if any of this had any impact. However, he reports 6/25/09 for BCT. Good luck with the process
     
  5. officer

    officer Member

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    Great advice, but from what I can see, each congressman has a form with their letterhead of specific questions they want answered directly on that form. Then they want the "recommender" to put the completed form into the envelope, seal it, and then sign their name across the flap.

    I can see how just a general letter for admission into the academies would work as you suggests (if they also don't want specific questions answered), but how did you handle the above situation? -officer
     
  6. Jacksmom

    Jacksmom Member

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    I guess our state is different--both Senators and our Congressman only asked for three letters of recommendation. They did not have specific questions to answer, sealed envelope--etc. So, sorry, my advice was not very helpful!:rolleyes:

    I will say, the people who did provide references were so gracious and genuinely happy to help out my son. I'm sure you will find the same to be true. Very generally speaking, the young men and women who aspire to attend a service academy have stood out in their personal relations and those who have been a part of their lives are eager to help them succeed.
     
  7. maybeusnamom13

    maybeusnamom13 New Member

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    For son's recommendation letters, he spoke directly with each teacher he needed a rec from in mid-May and before school was out provided each with a large manila envelope that contained the following:

    A personalized letter to each recommender thanking in advance and providing specific instructions (complete enclosed forms, provide letter, place each in envelope, seal envelope, sign across back, return by Aug 1, thank you, thank you, thank you! Have a great summer! Here's my cell phone and email address if you have any questions.) This letter also stated that these recommendations were specifically for the MOC nomination applications and that he would also be requesting traditional college recommendation letters when school returned.

    Copy of transcript/test scores: AP/IB/PSAT/SAT/ACT

    Copy of his portion of each MOC application as complete as possible, including personal statements and essays (these were not the final versions, just the rough draft to give a little insight)

    Copy of resume

    Pre-addressed letter size envelopes for each MOC attached to each recommender form

    Manila envelope large enough to include all sealed recommendation letters addressed to our home with more than enough postage

    It was easy for teachers, gave them plenty of time to complete and all were returned well before Aug 1.

    As I explained to my son (who just sent his USNA acceptance today), yours is not the only recommendation. Give them everything and make it as painless as possible!

    And follow up with a hand-written thank you note!!! (and enclose a small Starbucks card or similar for extra brownie points)
     
  8. officer

    officer Member

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    Good advice. This is what I did for his AIM letters of recommendation. It's good to prepare them ahead of time, like you state, for the letters that will aslo be needed for regular admissions. I'm going to print this post and use it. Thanks -officer
     
  9. triplemmom

    triplemmom Member

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    I agree wholeheartedly with all the advice, and we also did pretty much everything covered. We included a cover letter with instructions and our son's resume. If I could add one more tip: Ask more than the required number of people for letters, and then choose the best! We did this, and I am so glad we did, for several reasons: 1. One reference did not get us his letter until about a week before the MOC deadline despite repeated requests from my son and myself, I finally called his wife and voila, the letter was in hand the next day. 2. When we did finally recieve his letter, it was less than great, grammatical errors and punctuation errors, and just not the kind of stuff that would communicate to anyone what kind of a kid our son was. If we had not asked 6 people to write letters, we would have had to either find another person at the last minute to write another letter, or go back to this person and tell him the letter was not good enough and ask for a rewrite. Not everyone (even teachers) are great at writing letters of recommendation, or even seem to know what kind of information to put in them. We were able to choose 3 great letters and avoid hurting anyone's feelings. Our son recieved nominations to USNA and USAFA. Good luck!
     
  10. time2

    time2 Member

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    Although the 'ask more and pick the best letters' may not be good advice if the letters are asked to be returned in sealed envelopes where you/your candidate never get to read them. One of the purposes of letters of recommendations is to get an honest perspective from an impartial individual who should write about the person's stengths AND weaknesses.
     
  11. mom3boys

    mom3boys Parent

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    Our MOC's didn't require the letters to be sealed, so even if they were given to us sealed, we unsealed them. We put together folders with all the information (application, cover letter, references, transcript, etc...). Unless the MOC specifically requires sealed letters w/ signatures on the seal, you would be foolish not to read what is submitted! One of the people who wrote for my son was a very well respected member of the community--and a terrible writer. I had edited college papers for him in the past, so he had me edit his letter for grammar and spelling. It would not have been a good reflection on either him or my son to send in the original letter! He approved the final version, then printed and signed it. If you think someone won't give you a glowing reference, don't ask him/her for one!!
     
  12. officer

    officer Member

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    My congressmen have on their instructions the following:

    To the recommender: The person named above is applying for nomination to a US Service Academy...By law, admissions materials must be shown to a student upon request. ...Please answer the specific questions on this form. Use additional pages if necessary. Please give this completed form, along with any additional pages or letters, sealed in an envelope and signed across the flap, to the applicant for inclusion in the application packet.

    Does this mean I can request the letter without it being in the signed envelope? How many people ask to see their letters. I don't know what to do. -officer
     
  13. mom3boys

    mom3boys Parent

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    That sounds to me like you can request to see the letter from your MOC. Since it has to be submitted in a sealed envelope, make darn sure you ask someone who you know and trust (and who likes you) to write it. As a teacher, I am so surprised when I get requests for references from kids who are loud, rude, and disruptive in my class. You could even say when you ask the teacher if he/she would be willing to write a positive recommendation for you. If they say no, move on.
     
  14. 2011's Mom

    2011's Mom Parent

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    No - it means the letter must be submitted in a sealed envelope and after it is submitted to the MOC you can ask to see what was submitted. If the instructions say to turn in a sealed envelope signed on the flap, do it exactly as instructed.

    Each MOC office is somewhat different so not all will require the letter in this manner. I am aware of only one candidate that requested to see a letter submitted for them - so in my experience, less then 1% ask to see a letter.
     
  15. usna2012mom

    usna2012mom Member

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    Keep in mind that the candidate needs to be the one asking for the recommendation, not the parent.
     
  16. officer

    officer Member

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    Absolutely, wouldn't have it any other way. I'm just trying to ask some background questions for him right now because he's so bogged down with SAT and AP exams. Thanks for the feedback. -officer:smile:
     
  17. jennyp

    jennyp Parent

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    All good advice. A couple more suggestions. Even if the Congressman uses letterhead with congressional seal, etc, you can still retype the forms for your recommenders to use. We copied fonts, colors, and snagged the congressional seal off the internet. It is not that tough to recreate the forms.

    Also, one person both of my boys has used for a recommendation requests that we write the letter, provide it to them in electronic format so they can make changes if they wish. This is really quite common. No one knows your kid better than you. You also know the nuances of whatever it is they are applying for and how to word the letter to speak to the specific situation.

    Basically, make it easy, easy, easy for someone to write those letters or fill out those forms. We gave addressed envelopes complete with postage to each person we asked. If the letter was supposed to come back to us to be included in a packet, we provided a priority mail envelope addressed to us, again stamped, and/or a note with son's cell phone so they could call him, he could run by and pick up letter. Don't make the recommender have to read the fine print on Senator Whatchamacallit's forms to figue out if they seal in envelope and sign across seal, mail to Senator, return to applicant, etc. Spell it out for them clearly!

    If you want the Pastor to emphasize that your son is responsible and trustworthy, tell him that is what you need. Tell the coach you need him to emphasize that junior is exceptionally dedicated to his sport, whatever. You want the recommenders to ideally all touch on slightly different aspects of your child's character. They are not mind readers and probably have not written to a service academy before, so help them out!

    I sit on a committee for scholarships in my profession. We give out an award for around $8000 annually. No small potatoes. I am amazed, dumbfounded, flabbergasted every year at the complete lack of qualilty teachers, pastors, employers put into these letters. 90% of them sound the same. We even had two kids from a small school apply. The English teacher sent the EXACT same letter for both, changing only their names. I contacted the school and told them they were hurting their student's chances by doing something so lazy!

    Many people are intimidated by writing letters of recommendation. I encourage folks to tell a story, show a specific example that will make the letter unique. People will welcome the help!
     
  18. 2011's Mom

    2011's Mom Parent

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    LORs etc.

    wow - I don't even know where to begin ... and I admit a few comments in the post above do strike me wrong and perhaps I am misunderstanding the post in question (and if I am, I apologize ahead of time!), nonetheless I feel strongly about this so at the risk of overreacting...

    1) I can assure you that a MOC office will recognize that you altered their document. At the very least this will leave doubt in their mind. In the offices that I deal with, we would a) notice and b) discuss the alteration of the letterhead/document. I hope that no one in our area alters our letterhead or "snagged the congressional seal off the internet" because it will not go over very well.

    2) MOCs expect your LORs to be the work of the letter writer, not the candidate nor the candidates parents. It may be common in your area for this practice but it is not common in ours. Kids aspiring to attend a SA are typically very good kids. Teachers, principals, pastors and family friends are usually pleased to offer glowing LORs for kids worthy of glowing LORs. They are typically less pleased to write LORs for kids they feel are less than stellar. While it makes a lot of sense to give an individual writing such a letter some kind of information from which to fill the letter (copy of your resume or accomplishments etc), in my opinion it is inappropriate to write the letter for the individual, even if they ask you to do so.

    3) Yes, make it easy for your letter writers. If the MOC wants sealed and signed envelopes, give them to him. Many offices expect the letters to be mailed from the letter writer directly to the MOC. To intercept them could be identified and noted as not following instructions, again depending on the instructions, follow them explicitly because failure to follow instructions can reflect poorly on your application or, in competitive areas particularly, even remove you from consideration for a nomination. If there are 1500 applicants in on MOC and they are only giving 10 noms, not following instructions is a very fast and easy step to weed out multiple applications without the need to even take time to read them. I cannot stress it strongly enough - following instructions exactly is of great importance.

    I caution you with dealing with your references - I recall a situation where a LOR was submitted by an applicant and then a 2nd LOR from the same author was submitted directly to the MOC with a cover note saying that the previous letter was submitted addressing what the applicant asked but that the enclosed 2nd letter reflects what the author really wanted to say...

    Finally, while it is always easier to read a LOR that is well written and clearly thought out - grammatical errors, spelling errors or other similar issues are NOT reflected on the candidate. MOC letters, at least in our office, are carefully reviewed for CONTENT. We care about what the letter writer says about YOU and your ability to succeed at a SA. The writer is not the candidate so as long as the letter is readable, it will not reflect poorly on you if there are technical errors. I would venture to say that MOC offices (and probably admissions as well) would rather see truthful well intended content vs. sterile form. Your essay, on the other hand, will be critiqued more thoroughly but also should give the reader a view into what makes you tick, while still being well written.

    A student seeking a MOC nomination and admission to a SA is aspiring to a lot more than a college degree. Regardless of what SA they are accepted to, they will be expected to live under an honor code of one kind or another. If it feels a little untrue, perhaps it is a little untrue and ought not be practiced.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2009
  19. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

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    I am going to back up 2011's Mom 100%.

    This is not rocket science, folks. Follow the directions. There are rules for a reason, don't attempt to skirt them.
    There is never any reason for a candidate to see or approve or assist in writing a LOR for themselves. Trust those whom you ask.
    Ask people who know you well, who can witness to your character and hard work. Don't ask a teacher just because you got all A's, if the teacher doesn't "know" you then she won't have anything to write.
     
  20. usnahopeful

    usnahopeful USNA Midshipman

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    The best thing I found when asking people for letters of recs/ evals for me was to ask them very far in advance. I had all of mine done the Spring semester of my junior year partially because my teachers had basically a full year to get to know the real me (vs. my senior year ones who would have had only weeks) and also they were not bogged down writing letters of recs for other students to attend CA State schools or the University of CA schools. I highly recommend doing this. And everyone I asked was more than happy to help me out- they actually asked if I needed anything else. Good luck! And one thing I would try to have your son ask these people to do it (if at all possible).
    And I never saw anything that was written for any of my evals/ recs for the process. I think it was better that way too. But they must have been fairly decent because I was accepted everywhere I had applied to and am a candidate appointee to the USNA c/o 2013! :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2009

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