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UC Regents might approve limited use of letters of recommendation – what’s their value?




People enter California Hall on the UC Berkeley campus on May 22, 2014 in Berkeley, California.
People enter California Hall on the UC Berkeley campus on May 22, 2014 in Berkeley, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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The UC Regents board is voting Thursday on whether to approve the limited use of letters of recommendation at UC campuses.

If approved, all UC schools would be able to ask no more than 15 percent of freshman applicants to submit letters, in cases where the school needs additional information to make its decision.

This proposal has sparked a debate about the value of letters of recommendation between UC Berkeley, which in the past has wanted to ask all students for letters, and UCLA, whose chairwoman of the Academic Senate said letters can be a burden to students.

Critics of letters of recommendation say they can disadvantage students in under-served neighborhoods who don’t have the same kind of access to teachers or counselors, but proponents say they’re a well-rounded indicator of a prospective student’s qualities.

Teachers, counselors, students – what do you think of letters of recommendation? Do they help or hinder the chances of prospective students? Do they create an unequal playing field or do they level it out?  

Guest:

Bruce Poch, Dean of Admission and Executive Director of College Counseling at Chadwick School, a private K-12 school in Palos Verdes Peninsula; he is also a former Dean of Admissions at Pomona College, where he read many applications and letters of recommendation