Whether they want to be politicians, filmmakers or social workers, all students seemingly have graduate school in mind for their future. Maybe they’re headed there next year to become a doctor. Maybe they’ll work for a year or two before pursuing a Master of Social Work. Perhaps they just see it on the horizon because their life plan includes eventually earning a Master of Business Administration.
Whatever their intentions, it’s undeniable that Penn students want to be prepared for the transition to becoming a prospective graduate-school applicant. Just like our own undergraduate admissions process so many years ago, there are admissions exams, personal statements and, of course, recommendation letters.
These letters are the one part of the application process that is almost entirely out of our control. So Penn’s Career Services could do more to help students when it comes to collecting and distributing them.
Whether you’re a freshman who’s years away from applying or a senior taking some time off, the need to amass these testimonials weighs on you as soon you realize that postgraduate study may be for you.
For some Penn students, the recommendation system is more clear-cut. If you’re applying as a pre-health student to medical, dental or veterinary school, Career Services offers an in-house credential system.
For these applicants, “in line with the preferences of those schools, Penn provides an institutional letter that serves as a cover letter for letters of recommendation written by faculty,” wrote Peter Stokes, senior associate director of Career Services and a pre-health adviser, in an email. “The letters are stored here because that makes it much more feasible for us to assemble and then send out that packet.”
According to Stokes, Career Services is not playing favorites and does not believe “that services for medical/dental applicants are more important than services to applicants to other graduate or professional schools.”
But unfortunately, these other students often feel unaided.
“I called Career Services and asked them if they would store rec letters for me and they said that they wouldn’t because I wasn’t pre-med or pre-dental,” said Laura Heller, a College junior hoping to attend graduate school for social work. “They suggested that I use the online service that you have to pay for or they said I could manage them myself.”
Career Services recommends that students that are not pre-health take advantage of Interfolio, an online credentials service. The website charges an annual fee and an additional cost per application, which swiftly adds up if you are applying to many schools or different programs.
In contrast, Princeton University’s Office of Career Services offers students the option to create a confidential credentials file when applying to graduate and professional schools, as well as fellowships and scholarships. The file is maintained at no cost while students are enrolled and for one year after graduation, with the ability to send letters to up to 10 schools and programs per academic year free of charge.
The establishment of a system similar to Princeton’s would provide a welcome change to the current Career Services offerings. Penn students deserve the same type of repository for recommendation letters that is offered to students at our peer universities.
No matter what type of graduate program you’re headed to, it begins with an application. If Penn and Career Services can make the process of collecting and sending recommendation letters easier and more cost-effective, the student body would greatly appreciate it.
Sabrina Benun is a College senior from Santa Monica, Calif. Her email address is benun@theDP.com. Last Call appears every Friday.Comments powered by Disqus
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