Recommendation Letters Can Lead to Student Discrimination

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Apr 03, 2022 | 0 Comments

When a prospective student is applying to a college or university, there are many facets to completing the admissions process. While schools differ on their minimum requirements regarding grade point average (GPA) and standardized test scores, most require a recommendation letter. This written record offers admissions personnel a truncated view of a prospective student's character, but it can be a measure of discrimination against a hopeful student under certain circumstances.

Importance of Recommendation Letters Rising

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), 80 percent of schools that participated in a survey claimed recommendation letters were “important” in determining a candidate's admission. The respondents differed on the level of importance recommendation letters are given. Nevertheless, research conducted by the NACAC using 447 four-year undergraduate institutions showed that “character” is rising as a primary consideration in the admissions process. Over one-quarter of colleges in the annual survey weighed recommendation letters as “considerable” in their importance – just as high as test scores, GPA, and other markers of achievement.

Recommendation letters are increasingly subject to a vast overhaul in the entire college admissions process, including their use in awarding financial aid. Yet, not all recommendation letters are made equal, as those writing them are set in divergent initial conditions.

To promote equity in higher education, admissions officers are becoming aware that recommendation letters are unfair to students who don't have teachers or guidance counselors who can dedicate time to writing a glittering proposal for a prospective student. Affluent private schools may educate a few dozen pupils under a team of administrators and guidance counselors. However, teachers and guidance counselors at underfunded public schools may have to manage hundreds of students while assisting in other school activities such as monitoring the hallways, running school clubs, and pulling parking lot duty.

When Recommendation Letters Can Hinder Student Achievement

InsideHigherED reports that only Hawaii, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming have a student-counselor ratio under 250 to one. Furthermore, the balance is more than 500 to one in at least 13 states in the U.S.

Tuskegee University Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success Joseph Montgomery explained that immense teacher and administrator workloads “affects not only low-income and disadvantaged students, but the colleges like Tuskegee that serve them.” When a scarce context is available to reason a prospective student's character, “a disadvantaged student is further disadvantaged,” Montgomery summarized.

Although there have been efforts to make recommendation letters optional or allow personal letters, it does not solve the problem of students becoming disadvantaged through current processes that create inequities in students' ability to fulfill admissions requirements. Because of this, prospective students and their parents may believe there is nothing they can do to challenge a school's admission decision. However, that is a misconception.

What if You Find Yourself in This Situation?

Suppose you have been subject to discrimination via a recommendation letter. In that case, you need to call an experienced student defense advisor like attorney Joseph D. Lento. Attorney Lento and his expert team at Lento Law Firm are empathetic and understand what discrimination in the college and university admissions process means and have unparalleled experience defending clients and protecting their reputations and goals. To reach the best possible outcome and for help against admissions discrimination, call 888-535-3686 to discuss how the Lento Law Firm can defend you.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.


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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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