Some schools across the country are asking for college recommendations from parents — not the most unbiased of sources, but certainly ones who are familiar with the student.
According to The New York Times, small liberal arts colleges such as Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., welcome letters of recommendation from parents. At Smith College, almost half of its 4,300 applications include a letter from a parent.
However, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said such a feat is not possible for a large university like Penn, which received 31,216 overall applications this admissions cycle. Additionally, Furda said, the admissions officers are not responsible for reading any supplementary recommendations beyond the required three, whether they are from a work supervisor or a family friend.
“We don’t track supplementary recommendation letters,” he said. “There’s a role for them, certainly, but in a process like ours, we need to work toward the 30,000-person expectations and guidelines.”
Michael Goran, a 1976 College graduate and founder of IvySelect College Consulting, said submitting additional letters could actually have a detrimental effect on an application.
“In having to read through the other letters in the file, [admissions officers] are unable to spend as much quality time on other letters of recommendation and other aspects of the application,” he said. “Also, when you’re sending so many files, admissions officers are human beings and you can annoy them.”
Penn currently requires two letters of recommendations from teachers and one from a high school counselor or administrator through the Common Application.
Sometimes, a quick email from a sibling currently attending the University can be insightful and is “perfectly acceptable,” Furda said.
“I’m cynical about parent recommendations, but some of the more insightful opportunities I’ve had to learn about an applicant are a sibling writing me a heartfelt email,” he said.
Top Colleges Educational Consultant Steven Goodman, a 1989 Graduate School of Education alumnus, believes that supplemental letters of recommendation can bring aspects of an application to the surface.
“Supplemental letters can be valuable if they add new information to the file,” he said. “If a student has overcome a physical or learning disability, a lot of students are hesitant to talk about that in their applications.”
Furda stressed the value of “quality over quantity,” and said the rule of any letter is to “have something to say.”
He added that oftentimes with multiple letters of recommendations, the admissions officers may not be gleaning any additional new information that has not been addressed in the others.
Raymond Holloway — who was admitted early decision from Millburn High School in Millburn, N.J. — submitted an extra letter of recommendation from the professor of a course he took on sports entertainment marketing.
He said the course was instrumental in his decision to pursue marketing at the Wharton School and he thought it would be a good addition to his application.
“I didn’t really think about whether they would read it or not,” he said. “I figured it couldn’t hurt.”
However, College freshman Alex Ghanem, who did not submit any additional letters, said he does not see the need for Penn to accept supplemental recommendations.
“I definitely think [the required letters] are enough,” he said. “While extra recommendations could help you get in, since not everyone had the time in high school to do research or hold a job, it wouldn’t be fair for the admissions office to take special consideration for those applicants who did have that extra time.”
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