It’s a big, important — and time-consuming — part of a Staples guidance counselor’s job: writing college recommendations.
With 45 to 55 seniors a year — and each one taking 30 minutes to 2 hours to compose, based on feedback from the student, teachers, coaches, music and drama directors, community members and others — that’s a lot of work.
Because their school days are full, counselors often write recommendations on their own time, at home.
However, writing college recs is not part of a Staples teacher’s (or coach’s, or other staff member’s) job description.
Officially, that is.
But students often ask. And — because their job is helping teenagers succeed — those teachers often oblige.
On their own time.
The most popular teachers are asked to write dozens of recommendations (and other references — for scholarships, summer programs, etc.) — a year.
You’d think that students would show their thanks with a note — or at least a heartfelt email.
You’d also think that students would eagerly share their acceptances — and final college decisions — with the folks who played at least a tiny role in helping them get in.
But nowhere near as many as you think.
Victoria Capozzi — a longtime Staples guidance counselor, who like her colleagues works hard to craft every recommendation to each student’s personality, accomplishments and goals — talked recently about the ins and outs, ups and downs, rewards and disappointments of college rec writing.
“Kids may not realize, but adults are truly invested in them, throughout the entire process,” she said.
“The teenage brain doesn’t see it that way. They just see it as a checklist item on their college application.”
Once a student completes the application, Capozzi explained, “the teenage brain shuts down. It’s done.”
It’s important, she noted, for adults to remind students of the importance of “a gracious thank-you.” Email is “the minimum.” The best option is a handwritten note, delivered in person.
Those are “old school values,” Capozzi admitted. But they exist for a reason.
She showed an example of a great note. It meant so much, she stuck it on her file cabinet.
But a thank-you like that is rare. Capozzi had 48 seniors this year — young men and women she started with as freshmen. Only 8 wrote notes.
“I don’t need accolades,” Capozzi stressed. “I’m their counselor. I know where they’re going. But teachers pour their hearts and souls into their letters. It’s just common courtesy to let them know where you’ve decided to go.”
She added, “I don’t want to sound negative. These are great kids, and great families. I just want to stress the importance of this.”
Staples’ guidance department tries to educate students and parents about the value of this courtesy. It’s in the PowerPoint presentation made during junior and senior years. Counselors also mention it in face-to-face meetings — including the senior “exit interviews.”
“Don’t forget to thank your teachers!” they say.
Sadly, many do.