Should you solicit recommendations from non-school individuals?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,918
    Jerome Cole, Director of College Counseling at the Edmund Burke School in Washington D.C., discusses if you should solicit recommendations from non-school individuals for college admission.

    Jerome A. Cole, MA

    Jerome A. Cole, M.A., is the Director of College Counseling for the Edmund Burke school in Washington, D.C. and the founder of Cole Educational Consulting Services (Cole ECS.) He has worked with students and families for over seven years to help them plan and strategize for college. As a college counselor at Burke, an independent college preparatory high school founded in 1968, Mr. Cole oversees a program that is designed to support students and families as they go through the selection and admission process for college. Mr. Cole advises over 100 students each year in a small academically challenging environment where every senior is expected to apply to and enroll in college. Prior to Burke, he was a school counselor at Bethesda-Chevy Chase high school in Montgomery County, Maryland. He has successfully counseled hundreds of students and helped them prepare for admission to a variety of schools such as: American University, Clark-Atlanta University, Davidson College, George Washington University, Harvard University, Pitzer College, Stanford University, Temple University, and the University of Maryland at College Park, to highlight just a few. He established the consulting firm Cole ECS to provide students and families with the necessary information and support to make the best choice for college. Cole ECS defines the best choice as the optimal learning and social environment to ensure a student’s holistic success, culminating in on-time or early graduation and desirable post-graduate options. Mr. Cole earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Catholic University, and then went on to obtain a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development from George Washington University. He is certified as a school counselor and is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC).

    Should you solicit recommendations from non-school individuals? I think the students should do that but I think you should be very careful who you ask outside of your school building and your thought process should be something like this. This past summer I worked at a camp. The director of the camp and I, we became very close. I think he thinks highly of me, I think he would write me a good letter of recommendation. Okay, that's great, but is that individual going to be able to provide some information in that letter that will not be in either a teacher recommendation letter or the counselor recommendation letter because you can assume that you are going to get those letters? So, now you are talking about bringing in a third source. What is that third source going to bring to that student folder that these other two letters are not going to already have in them? What you don t want to do is have repetition and what you don t want to do is not follow the instructions for that particular college application. So, if the college application asks for two teacher recommendations and one counselor recommendation, that s what you want to do. The idea of introducing a fourth letter into your student file, you want to be very careful about doing that because now you are not following the instructions, so, you want to make sure that that fourth letter, that's going to bring something to that file that s going to be really valuable and you think this could really make a difference here. That s the only time that you want to do something like that. Now, there will be some applications that will actually, ask for a non-teacher recommendation and if that s the case then obviously, you want to go out and get that. So, do that, go get that non-teacher, non-counselor recommendation but be very careful about following the instructions and what that person is going to bring.