What is the purpose of a recommendation in a college or scholarship application?
TPS receives many requests for recommendations for college applications, scholarship applications, extracurricular HS program applications, and applications for curricular enrollment in other school programs. All recommendation forms and letters ask the recommender to explain how he or she knows the applicant, including how long and what type of interactions form the basis for the recommendation. Some of these requests are for recommendations in a specific subject area (e.g., math or French), but most are broad recommendations in areas of character, reliability, service, leadership and influence, communication skills, and other extracurricular factors. Also, most recommendation requests are for application to a local (i.e., not virtual or online) program, so the questions and topics prioritize direct first-hand interaction and observation.
Is your favorite online teacher your best source for a recommendation?
Most of the requests for recommendation we receive are from students we do not know first-hand in the areas covered by the recommendation. Taking online classes is not sufficient basis by itself for a recommendation that addresses observable aspects of character, reliability, service, leadership and influence, communication skills, and other extracurricular factors. Even if you have a favorite online teacher who wants to help you, that does not make his or her recommendation credible (or valid). Recommendations where you provide the facts or content and the teacher writes the prose and completes the form are also not credible first-hand recommendations. Due to the remote and limited nature of the interactions, and the lack of first-hand direct observation and interaction, an individual online teacher recommendation has limited credibility in a competitive recommendation process. The college will accept the recommendation, but the competitive application reviewer will give it little or no weight, regardless of how strongly it is written. (There is also the risk that an overreaching recommendation from a source that lacks first-hand credibility can weaken the applicant’s overall package by calling into question the the credibility of related sources (e.g., the transcript) and the overall application package.)
Is TPS your best source for a recommendation?
TPS encourages students applying for competitive colleges or scholarships to make every effort to gather strong recommendations from leaders, mentors, teachers, or advisers who have had extended first-hand extracurricular relationship with the student. For our Diploma Partnership students, we assist and guide this process of identifying and gathering recommendations starting in grade 9 and continuing throughout high school. Also for our Diploma Partnership students, we invest as a school to develop enhanced relationship with each student over multiple years of advising and partnering in the entire education process. Based on the multi-year educational partnership, TPS is able to coordinate and focus contributions from multiple teachers and advisers spanning years and subjects to provide credible impactful school and teacher recommendations to support a strong college or scholarship application package for a Diploma Partnership student.
For students outside the Diploma Partnership, we do not have these enhanced relationships so we are generally unable to provide credible and effective general recommendations with integrity. Therefore, we generally do not support recommendation requests from students outside our Diploma Partnership. We also decline to weaken a student’s application or reduce our credibility by providing pro forma or gratuitous recommendations. However, for students outside our Diploma Partnership, we will consider providing a subject-area recommendation (e.g., where the focus of the recommendation is explicitly limited to that subject area) under criteria that are similar to our Diploma Partnership for that particular subject:
- Recommendation is for college or college scholarship application.
- Recommendation guidelines and questions are limited to the specific subject.
- Student successfully completed full year TPS upper HS courses in that subject in grades 10 and 11.
- Student is enrolled to continue and complete that subject in TPS in grade 12.
- Student’s academic record and family account are in good standing in TPS.
A relationship that spans multiple upper HS years, courses, and teachers in a single subject allows us to coordinate observations from multiple courses and teachers to to provide a credible impactful school and teacher recommendation with integrity in that subject area.
For TPS Diploma Partnership students, please coordinate all recommendation requests with your academic adviser.
For all other students, recommendation requests must be sent to TPS Support (not the teacher) for consideration under the criteria listed above.