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Monday, October 05, 2009

Should you waive your right to see recommendations?

The subject of waiving rights recently came up among our professional organization's membership and I thought I'd see how you feel about this.

When you request recommendations from your counselor and teacher, you'll be asked to indicate whether you waive your right to see the letters that are submitted for you. Back when I was in high school, there wasn't much debate about this. Everyone signed off on the waiver. I couldn't imagine why I'd want to hunt down what my teachers had said about me...after all, I was asking them to write for me because I knew their letters would be positive. However, things have changed and it seems as though more students are reserving the right to check up on their recommendations. Interestingly, this right is only intact at the schools where you matriculate, so the only recommendations you'd be able to see are the ones that were part of an application that got you admitted to a school.

Anyway, there was much debate over this topic. Some admission officers didn't seem to care much about whether rights were waived, but many felt otherwise. They felt that writers wouldn't write freely and that they'd be crafting a vague letter. In essence, they thought that not signing the waiver deprived students of a complete and comprehensive recommendation.

I personally don't take much time pondering the waiver part of the recommendation form, but I think that if you trust your teacher enough to request their recommendation, you probably don't really need to see that letter years down the line.

Another thing to consider: in almost ten years of doing this, I have only seen two recommendations that weren't positive or complimentary and both of those letters were read when I worked for another school. So, I have only read positive recommendations at UVa. Our applicants seem to do a good job when it comes to selecting their recommendation writers.

What do you think about recommendation waivers? Do you think admission officers should take into account whether an applicant has waived their rights or not?