Character Counts

This week, I attended an event sponsored by Inspired Capital and was introduced to the organization, Activate Good. During his introductory remarks at the start of the program, Adam Whitesell of Inspired Capital, said that he believes that people are “intrinsically good” and want to do the right thing. I agree. Adam further argued that people donate time and money to deserving organizations such as Activate Good, not for reasons such as tax benefits, but because they believe in philanthropy and they want to support community organizations. In other words, people give money to worthy causes not for their own advantage, but because they are passionate about what they believe in.

Intrinsic goodness and moral character have been on my mind lately (see my previous post about the admissions scandal), so the timing of the event sponsored by Inspired Capital was perfect.  My belief in the goodness of others is at the heart of who I am and learning about organizations such as Activate Good renewed my commitment to my core values.

Goodness and character will no doubt be topics of conversation in the world of college admissions for months to come and I’d argue that assessing an applicant’s character will be even more important in the admissions process next year.  While students can demonstrate good character in many ways, admissions officers rely heavily on letters of recommendation to understand the student as a whole. Most colleges require, or at least encourage, one letter of recommendation from a teacher at school. The purpose of that letter is two-fold: to articulate the student’s strengths in the classroom, and provide insight into the student’s character.  Therefore, students should be thoughtful about who they ask to write on their behalf.

Letters of recommendation tips

Step One

  • Create strong connections with your teachers

    1. Students should consider these questions as they matriculate through high school:

      1. Am I making an effort to create a positive relationship with at least one teacher?

      2. Does at least one teacher know about my hobbies and interests or my academic passions?

  • Reflect on your contributions to the classroom environment

    1. Are you the type of student who participates in class discussions?

    2. Do you frequently ask questions in class?

    3. Does your work reflect your abilities?

    4. Do you collaborate well with your classmates?

Step Two

  • Ask teachers who know you well

    1. Only ask teachers who can provide positive examples of your character and studentship.

  • Provide teachers with anecdotes

    1. When asking for a letter of recommendation, provide your teacher with a few stories about your classroom experience.

      1. For example: I really enjoyed your AP Government class and found our unit on the Electoral College most interesting. My research paper arguing for the elimination of the Electoral College helped me more fully understand our system of government and the nuances of our elections.  Furthermore, I enjoyed our mock debates when discussing Supreme Court cases and was proud of my efforts as a result of my research of Roe V Wade.

  • Share your resume with your recommenders

    1. While your teachers might know about some of your activities, most likely they don’t know everything.

  • Write thank you notes

    1. Most likely, you are not the only one asking your teacher for a letter of recommendation. Take the time to write (with an actual pen) a thank-you note.

Volunteerism and philanthropy help us define good character as a society.  If you are looking to get involved in your community, Activate Good is a “good” place to start. The organization also organizes a summer event for high school students. Check out Teens Change The World for more information.