I come back home exhausted from the long day at high school. I’m too tired to go anywhere. During the summers, I wasn’t allowed to work because I had to study for the SAT. Over the years, my patience with people dwindled and I started dreading going anywhere where I had to interact with people. I joined college and things were pretty much the same except I was even more exhausted. I was forced to interact with adults and suddenly I had to fight for myself with them while walking the thin line of respect. I have never been taught to network. I didn’t get any experience talking with elders since in my culture every other thing a young girl says could be the end of the world; I was taught to shut up and listen. The teachers that had loved me in elementary had all retired or left no method of contact.
Half way through college, every other application requires recommendations that the recommender has to send. Not just one or two, but way more than three or four. I can’t bring myself to ask the same person twice since I move around and don’t get to build that solid type of relationship with anyone. But I need the recommendations for scholarships, internships and even a job. In addition, the recommendations have a list of requirements that I have to meet, making it even harder to select someone.
But I’m just one in a million of other students like this. People don’t get paid to write recommendations and there is only so many one person can submit for you, no matter how solid the relationship is. It is hard to have more than three professionals in your life that you can ask. But, what are the students supposed to do when they have to commute an hour or more just to get to campus and back? Where do the students who work in their family business or can’t find work supposed to find professionals who can write the recommendations? What about the students suffering from mental or physical illnesses? Or what about the people who work numerous small jobs to make ends meet and don’t get the chance to network with anyone else? What about those that come from abused backgrounds? What about the kid that made the wrong mistakes but only has one counselor believing in them? What about those that simply want to keep certain things private or their professional, career life apart from their recreational life at a gym? What about the people that cannot wait another six months to build relationships and then get recommendations?
All of these people need the scholarship, the internship and the job. In fact, they need it more than anyone else. So why is the system filtering them out? Why do the biggest scholarships need two or more recommendations with a long list of specifications? Why are the best internships reserved for those who happen to know someone that recommended them? Why are the stable, well-paying jobs given to those with the contact and accompanying solid recommendation letter? Where are the chances for the disadvantaged people?
Something needs to change. I cannot deny that recommendation letters are important. However, the list of specifications for the recommenders needs to shorten. It is extremely difficult for lots of people to have multiple professionals that they have known for two years or more, and knows about all of their community and extra-curricular involvement and all that they have achieved. Recommendation letters should only be asked for if it is vital to the application process. We should be allowed to upload recommendation letters that someone may have written a while ago. There is nothing worse than finding a great opportunity that you are eligible for, only to realize half way through that you won’t be able to get the required recommendations on time, if at all. Something has to change.
Right now, the requirements for recommendation letters is just limiting opportunities for those that need it most.