Oh, Those Letters


A letter I wrote for a friend last year

Letters of recommendation are a part of the “hidden” rules of the admissions game for many families applying to L.A. private elementary schools. They are part of the culture at certain schools. Other schools frown upon them.


When you’ve decided where you will be applying, you may want to ask people you know to write letters for your family. These are most meaningful coming from people who have a connection to the school. In other words, a current parent, alumni family or a board member, even a teacher.


Asking someone you know really well (or hardly at all) can be difficult. What will they say? What’s the best way to ask? Will they offer so you don’t have to ask? All these questions may be floating around in your mind. At least they were for me when I found out that people used letters of recommendation to help their applications. At that point, it was February and I had to scramble to get letters for the schools where we applied. We ended up getting letters for two of the three schools where my daughter applied (and was accepted- Willows and Wildwood). We didn’t have any letters for Oakwood School, but she still got in.


Sometimes, you have to ask when you have the opportunity. In person, by email, a phone call. It all works!


Along the way, I learned a few things about those letters:


  • Some people will gladly write you a wonderful, glowing letter of recommendation.
  • A few people will never return your call or email
  • Certain people will ask you for more information about your child
  • If someone asks you to write the letter for them to sign, do it! (Samples are in our book)
  • A lot of excuses about “not knowing” your family means they don’t want to write the letter
  • A conversation with the admissions director on your behalf may be preferred over a letter. That’s good too!
  • If a person says they are having issues with their school and it’s not a good time for them to be writing a letter, trust them.
  • Be prepared for rejection! It happens, but it’s not personal.
  • Be prepared for generosity and helpfulness. It just might be personal