Preparing for College

Political Views & Admission Chances

Question: I am applying to Boston University. One of my English professors wrote me a recommendation in which he briefly talked about some of my writing in his class. He includes a description of a paper I wrote in which my argument was that abortion should only be legal under certain circumstances. I've been told that Boston University is liberal in outlook and that it would be a bad idea for me to submit this recommendation, even though it is a very good recommendation otherwise. What should I do?

Don't worry about your teacher's reference "outing" your views on abortion and hurting your Boston University admission odds. Even the most liberal institutions value--and encourage--a range of perspectives, and I promise you that if you aren't admitted to BU, it will NOT be because your abortion stance is more conservative than the prevalent opinion on campus.

What does concern me, however, is that you seem to be talking about submitting the recommendation yourself. Instead, you should request that your teacher's letter of reference go directly to the college from him--or from your school--assuming that it is one of your REQUIRED teacher recommendations. (If it's an extra, optional reference, it can come right from you.) Colleges prefer to see references that were written confidentially and to which students do not have access.

Admittedly, there seems to be a growing trend among teachers to show their letters to the applicants involved and sometimes to even ask for feedback (e.g., "Is this what you want me to say? How should I change it?"). However, admission committees take good references more seriously if they don't appear to have passed through the candidates' hands first before arriving in their offices.