Writing a letter of recommendation can be a daunting task. After pouring hours into each student’s letter I find myself reflecting on the necessity. So do colleges and universities really care? The short answer YES!
The National Association for College Admission Counseling in their State of College Admissions Report (2014) polled colleges and universities on this topic and other admission factors. The results indicate 86% of participants’ rated the letter of recommendation of moderate importance to the admission decision. In comparison grades in college preparatory courses, strength in curriculum, admission test scores and grades in all courses were rated as top factors in the admission decision. College Board weighs in on the importance in their article on How to Write Effective College Recommendations sharing that in an interview with the of Dean of Admissions, Terry Cowdrey, of St. Lawrence University in New York the letter can be a factor for merit candidates at any college, borderline admissible students at any college, and competitive candidates at the most selective schools.
So the time spent on the letter has it’s value, but the fact that we may not be English majors is of less importance. The letters are really intended to differentiate students from their classmates or to provide a deeper understanding of a student’s circumstances. We can rest easy; they are not evaluating our written expression skills, they just want to get to know our students better.