Support for our Staff: Letters of Recommendation

Get the job
Graphic: Curren Media Group.

I love providing references and letters of recommendation for Camp Alleghany staff members who have successfully completed their work with us. It’s a way that we can really give back after all the focused and creative work that our team does during the camp year.

Most of the e-mails I get at this time of year are from counselors — and some campers —  asking for a letter of recommendation or reference form  for colleges, or things like National Honor Society, or job references.

I’m generally happy to do it!

And I have a selfish reason for providing this service, too: Since we set out to hire the cream of the crop, and provide top-notch training and support to do the job well, I’m happy to bask in our success in cultivating strong talent! I want to boast about our team! I want to boast about you!

At the same time, a reference or letter of recommendation is a very serious thing. I take it very seriously.

So the best way for the process to work for both us (Camp Alleghany generally, and me or Program Director Taylor Fellows specifically), and the person seeking the recommendation, is to be on the same page.

That said, it’s only fair to be clear and have some rules.

First, if you haven’t worked at or attended camp in over three years, I can’t provide a reference for you. It’s just been too long for me to reflect on your performance, or to feel I know you, even if you did a stellar job while here.

A lot can change over the course of three years and for your own sake, your references need to be more recent. That’s what I would expect in hiring a candidate, and you can bet other employers, colleges, and programs will expect the same.  So it’s best to look toward your more recent history.

But I can simply confirm to a potential employer that you did actually work for Camp Alleghany. I’m happy to do that for any of our workers.

Who should you ask for job references? And How?

A wise teacher once gave me this piece of advice: when asking someone to write a recommendation for you, a wonderful way to phrase your question is, “Do you feel you know me well enough to write a letter of recommendation for me?” This really poses the question in such a way that if the person cannot write a good one for you, he or she could easily say, “No, I actually don’t think I know you well enough.”

If you do feel that I know you well enough, please plan for enough advanced notice, that I have enough time to write it for you while meeting your submission deadline.

I’ve definitely received countless calls and e-mails in the past asking if I could get something written by the end of the week. A month’s notice is preferred, but a minimum two weeks is mandatory. On that note, please ask, rather than just assume I’ll do it (see above).

Writing a letter of recommendation for college or a job or other program requires reflection, digging out my notes, sometimes talking to other staff members. My reputation is on the line as much as the person who is seeking a new position. For that matter, so is the reputation of other applicants (if I just write something glowing for anyone, and it turns out to not be true, how will my letters be regarded in the future?)

For those reasons I need unrushed time to explore the issue, compose my thoughts, and get the letter to you (time that may be taken up by work obligations, conferences, and family duties). So definitely consider time in any request.

Help me to help you

If I’ve let you know that I will write the letter please provide the following information to me:

  • When was your first summer at camp, and how old were you? (I can look this up of course, but faster if you provide it!)
  • How many summers total did you attend camp.
  • If it’s been a while since you worked at camp, remind me what activities you taught.
  • List any specific awards or accomplishments you achieved at camp that you’d like me to include
  • The deadline by which this letter needs to be received.
  • Where to send the letter (will the Common App be sending me an email? Is there a school email address or mailing address you need to provide me?)

Please remember to regularly check your email —  as I’m writing your letter or filling out your form, I may have some questions that I need to ask you in order to write the most accurate or detailed letter. It’s hard to get it completed if I’m waiting around to hear from you.

Finally, please let me know exactly where to send it. Often I have to ask “Ok I am finished now, where do I send it?” Is it the Common App? Your school counselor? Your professor? Etc.

I love helping ‘Ghany Girls out in this way, so by doing the things listed above, you can help me help you! I also would recommend these tips for when you’re asking anyone (not just me or camp-related).

I enjoy singing your praises and talking about why and how your time spent at camp helps make you the perfect candidate for the school/job/etc. I already have several lined up for this fall, but if you need me, you know where to reach me!

— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls