Say Thank You. Please.

Right after graduation last year, I posted this story on “06880.” I’ve had requests to run it again — this time a bit earlier. Done!

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.

Some do.

But nowhere near as many as you think.

Victoria Capozzi

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 — describes 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 last 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.

11 responses to “Say Thank You. Please.

  1. Christine Bisceglie

    Right on ! Or Write On ! . Go Vivkie. From a Fairfield County Guidance Counselor .

  2. Charles Taylor

    Even adults forget to mention that “ thank you “ and “ I’m sorry “ are Free!

    • The phrase, “common courtesy…” jumped out at me as I read Victoria’s comments. Somewhat of a lost art in today’s world, but hope springs eternal. It was a nice article, Dan, about a very good person, teacher and role model…so good to behold. Thank you for running it (again!) .

  3. Victoria Capozzi

    Hi Christine. Great to see you last week. Here’s to hoping your students appreciate your efforts with a thank you.

  4. Stan Rhodes

    How could you not include Brown on your college wheel😊😊😊

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Stock photo, unfortunately!

    • Clark Thiemann

      If this is former Staples physics teacher Mr. Rhodes, I wanted to send a thank you for writing my college recommendation 20+ years ago and helping me get into my first choice school! I still appreciate that took the time to do this (although I’m sure you don’t remember now)!

  5. Wendy McKeon

    As the current chairperson of the Westport Woman’s Club Scholarship Committee, let me extend our sincere “thanks” to the Guidance Department at Staples.
    In reviewing the applications of the students, we carefully read each and every guidance counselor recommendation letter. They give us the insight we need to “know” the student better…who they are as young people, not just what their transcript shows (though they are helpful…and usually quite impressive!)
    Yes – I am also “old-school”…A hand-written thank you is always so appreciated.
    Class of 2019…as you look forward, gaze backward and bit and give thanks!

  6. Char Valante

    We are so fortunate to have Victoria, Trish, Bill and the entire guidance department! The support and resources for college planning has been just fantastic. Thank you!

  7. And what Victoria is so beautifully asking is important *beyond* college applications. I was amazed to hear a job interviewer say on TV the other day, “The application of anyone who doesn’t send a thank you for an interview goes in the wastebasket.” This might not be true of every job, but it’s important that these same students learn that if they are really eager to get that job they desire in four years, “be sure to send a thank you after the interview!”

  8. Tom Duquette SHS '75

    Disappointing but hardly surprising. This entitled behavior seems to be the norm for younger generations today. For some reason the notion of expressing gratitude for any sort of gift or service verbally, in writing, or through electronic media has become a foreign concept for people under 30. Being a counselor or teacher may be their job but these recommendations done on their own time is above and beyond the call.