Online recommendation letters save time and resources

November 1, 2010 — by Priyanka Nookala

As September turned into October, English teacher Suzanne Herzman was extremely busy grading almost 90 essays from her English 11 Honors students. At the same time, she was writing many college recommendation letters for the early action applicants. By late October Herzman still had 25 letters to write for her students who chose to follow the regular decision timeline for applications.

In the past, this would mean hours spent stuffing and stamping envelopes to dozens of schools. This year, at least for some students, she and other teachers are getting a break because those recommendations are now being submitted electronically.

Guidance counselor Alinna Satake is a driving force in pioneering the system of online college recommendation letters at SHS.

“We wanted to wait until some of the kinks had been worked out and it also helps that our sister school Los Gatos started last year, so that we have support and resources to help us,” said Satake.

Satake has yet to work out all the details, but she has established the basic structure of how the online recommendations work. Students use Naviance, an online college planning program, to keep a list of the colleges they are applying to. Then teachers write and share letters using the Common Application, a system for sending the same letters to dozens of different schools.

Although this system will save a lot of time for staff and students, Satake feels there are still some key factors in making sure the system works.

“This only works if students are up to date with following the directions and keeping on top of their Naviance accounts,” Satake said.

Senior Kaitna Shankar thinks it is not particularly difficult to keep the Naviance accounts updated.

“[Updating Naviance] is definitely kind of hard to remember, but the counselors do a good job of reminding you so I just go home and do it, ” Shankar said.

According to Satake, online submissions save teachers countless hours of photocopying papers as well as mailing and stuffing envelopes. This system also saves the school hundreds of dollars on materials.

Herzman agrees that the new system is efficient. “It saves time—and thwarts frustration. I can focus on writing rather than collating, copying, clipping, [and] sorting, ” Herzman said.

Senior Sumant Sabada finds online recommendations have many benefits and does not forsee any real challenges.

“[The online system is] pretty straightforward. I guess something can go wrong electronically, though I don’t think that it’ll happen, but I guess that could be the only worry I’d have,” said Sabada.

The system for online recommendation letters is not fool-proof, but Satake is confident it saves resources and time while making the process of applying to college a lot easier.

“I’m grateful that so many of these students have taken the risk to pilot the online app. I would encourage all students and letter writers to jump on board,” Herzman said.